India's civil aviation ministry is seeking stakeholder comments on a proposed fare schedule for regional air transport in the country, including helicopter flights.
Businesses and the public have until July 22 to comment on the schedule, called the Regional Air Connectivity Scheme, which the ministry released July 1. In a statement then, it said the fare schedule has "the twin objectives of promoting balanced regional growth and making flying affordable for masses."
The ministry said the Regional Air Connectivity Scheme is “the key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy” that it published June 15. That policy aims to fulfill India’s “potential to be among the global top three nations in terms of domestic and international passenger traffic,” it said, given the country’s “ideal geographical location between the Eastern and Western hemisphere, a strong middle class of about 300 million people and a rapidly growing economy.”
The national policy said it seeks to achieve that by providing “safe, secure, affordable and sustainable air travel for passengers and air transportation of cargo with access to various parts of India and the world” and making “flying affordable for the masses.”
The national policy also states that helicopters “play a key role in remote area connectivity, intra-city movement, tourism, law enforcement, disaster relief, search and rescue, emergency medical evacuation.”
Noting that India currently has fewer than 300 civilian helicopters, “which is very low as compared to other developing nations,” the policy said, the Indian government will promote helicopter usage. Efforts to do that will include drafting helicopter-specific air regulations and coordinating among the Ministry of Civil Aviation and other government agencies to clear the path for development of emergency medical helicopter services.
The national policy also calls for the “development of at least four heli-hubs initially across the country to promote regional connectivity” and to streamline air traffic control procedures for helicopters. That streamlining, according to the policy, would free helicopters “to fly from point to point without prior [air traffic control] clearance in airspace below 5,000 ft” and areas outside controlled, prohibited, restricted and special airspace.
The newly proposed fare scheme would prescribe helicopter ticket prices based on flight time, which airplane fares would be based on range. The fare schedule would be enacted for 10 years, according to the ministry.
The fare policy envisions improving connectivity “to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports” through “financial stimulus in the form of central and state government concessions.”
The aviation ministry said it “would invite proposals from interested airline and helicopter operators for starting operations on hitherto un-connected routes.”