PASIGHAT, April 12: In one of Arunachal’s most significant developments in recent times, a made-in-India Dornier 228 aircraft, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), landed at Pasighat from Dibrugarh with two union ministers amongst passengers on board, marking the start of inter and intra-state commercial flights in the northeastern-most state of the country.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M Scindia, Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju and rest of the passengers including top officials from the Civil Aviation Ministry, Airport Authority of India (AAI), HA and Alliance Air were given a grand reception at Pasighat airport by Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
Speaking at the reception ceremony, Union Minister Scindia congratulated the people of Arunachal Pradesh on commencement of the new fixed-wing passenger services, which will be operated by Alliance Air. Under a tri-partite agreement HAL has developed two Dornier 228 aircrafts especially for operations by Alliance Air in Arunachal Pradesh.
To begin with, the Dibrugarh-Pasighat-Lilabari (North Lakhimpur, Assam) flight will become operational twice a week beginning April 18.
Scindia informed that the Dornier 228 flights will start operating to and from Tezu in Lohit district within the next 3 weeks and will assure that in the next 30 days Ziro in Lower Subansiri will also be connected.
“Expanding civil aviation is not only a facet of improved connectivity but it is the engine of economic development for the region. Where there is an airport with regular flight services, it is ensured that the place will develop economically,” Scindia said.
He assured that the government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to develop the North East at par with the rest of the country, civil aviation being one of the important sectors.
To prove his statement, the Union Minister claimed that till 2014, there were only 74 airports in the country. He said, since Modi came to power in 2014, the number of airports has increased to 140 in just seven years.
Speaking about the North East, he said from 9 airports in the region in 2014, today the number stands at 15.
“The number will continue to grow in the next six months, the Greenfield Airport at Hollongi, Arunachal’s first full-fledged airport (being built at an estimated cost of Rs 650 crores), is just one. 18 new airstrips and heliports worth Rs 180 crores will be built in the North East in the coming days,” he said.
Scindia further informed that of the Rs 500 crore budget received for air connectivity in the North East from the Union Finance Ministry, almost 50% of it is earmarked for Arunachal Pradesh.
“Of the Rs 500 crore, Rs 227 crore will be utilized to improve air connectivity in Arunachal alone,” he said.
According to the Civil Aviation Minister, about Rs 70 crore has been earmarked for development of the Tezu airport and Rs 5-10 crore will be utilized for developing infrastructure of the Pasighat airport.
Further, six new heliports will be developed in Arunachal Pradesh at Daporijo, Itanagar, Tuting, Walong, Yingkiong and Ziro at an estimated cost of about Rs 50 crore within a year.
Along with developing airports and heliports, Scindia said it is also necessary to supply manpower to run and maintain the new development and asserted employment of local youths in the civil aviation sector.
“We need to provide training to our local youths so that they can be professionally employed in these airports as well as fly these aircrafts. Therefore, establishment of Flying Training Organizations (FTOs) is a must in the region,” he pointed.
The Minister informed that there are only 34 FTOs across the country and the ministry is planning to establish 9 new FTOs in the North East. The first one, he informed, will be opened at Lilabari as he lands there from Pasighat.
“In the next phase we will open 15 more FTOs and one will be sanctioned at Tezu for Arunachal Pradesh,” he announced.
Scindia thanked Chief Minister Pema Khandu for accepting his request for lowering VAT on Air Turbine Fuel (ATF) from 20% to 1%.
“I had made the request last Friday through a video conferencing and today as I landed in Pasighat, he (Khandu) handed me the official notification. That’s how a young and visionary chief minister works!” he added.
Khandu, on behalf of the state government and the people of Arunachal Pradesh profusely thanked the Union Government headed by Modi and the civil aviation ministry for the historic development in the state.
He assured that with air connectivity getting a new boost, the rural economy of the state will witness a sharp rise in the days to come.
Also present on the occasion were Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju, MP Tapir Gao, state Civil Aviation Minister Nakap Nalo, Health Minister Alo Libang, legislators Kaling Moyong, Ninong Ering, Lombo Tayeng, Kento Rina, Ojing Tasing and Rode Bui, Union Secretary for Civil Aviation Rajiv Bansal, Arunachal Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar, CMD HAL R Madhavan, Chairman AAI Sanjeev Kumar, Civil Aviation Joint Secretaries Usha Padhee and Ambar Dubey, CEO Alliance Air Vineet Sood and others.
Incidentally, HAL has been manufacturing Dornier aircraft after transfer of technology from the German firm that owned it, but made-in-India aircrafts were not used for civil aviation until now.
The 17-seater aircraft is capable of both day and night operations and will connect tier 2 and 3 towns in the region.