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Surveys Help Helicopter Charter Charter Out of Covid Mud | India News

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MUMBAI: Ongoing assembly elections in four states have apparently vaccinated the Indian helicopter charter industry against the debilitating effects of the Covid pandemic. Industry insiders say it is the first time that helicopters have been in high demand for the assembly election campaign in states such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Assam.
In states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat, political parties use helicopters as cars, even during assembly election campaigns, said a veteran of the charter industry. But the scene was different in other states.
“Traditionally, southern politicians stuck to road shows and used the media to campaign. But in the current elections, between 10 and 12 helicopters are being used, which is a record. West Bengal and Assam are the largest states and also experience intense competition, with an estimated more than 20 helicopters being used in these two states, ” said Captain Uday Gelli, Western Region President of the Rotary Wing Society. of India.
He added that this time, even small-time politicians have hired helicopters to collect votes. “Unlike in the past, in which parliamentary elections attracted the maximum use of helicopters in these states, now even the assembly elections are witnessing large-scale use of helicopters here,” Capt. Gelli said.
Mandar Bharde, Managing Director of charter company MAB Aviation Pvt Ltd, said: “About 90% of the two dozen twin-engine helicopters on the ground in India are currently participating in election campaigns. The political parties are now trying to get a couple of helicopters dedicated to offshore flights to oil rigs as well to cover the 25% shortage in supply. ”
However, single-engine helicopters are in moderate demand because an aviation circular issued a few years ago made twin engines mandatory even for state cabinet ministers, he added.
Captain Gelli said: “ Before, apart from Jayalalitha, nobody hired a helicopter in Tamil Nadu. Now everyone from Stalin, Kamal Hasan and local parties like TMC, DMK, AIADMK, AIUDF, etc., have hired helicopters to move their leaders within the state. ”
While Jayalalithaa had hired a Bell 412 for his last pick, he preferred it because the state also owned one and was familiar with it, the current favorite among top brass apparently is the AugustaWestland 139 for its quiet cabin, legroom, and speed. . “It’s priced at Rs 4-5 lakhs an hour compared to Rs 2.5 lakhs / hour for a basic twin-engine engine,” Bharde said.
Besides reducing travel time, another reason to hire helicopters is because they draw crowds in the Mofussil areas of Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam. “Helicopters never fly to many of these remote places except during elections. People flock to see them, many crowd to touch the helicopter and even meet the pilots, ”said Captain Gelli.
But Kerala has continued to play its traditional outlier role with zero demand for helicopters. “A former Kerala chief minister once told me that the surest way to lose an election is to land in a helicopter in Kerala to search for votes,” Bharde said. “People don’t like candidates who fly in helicopters. Only Delhi’s top brass like the prime minister, the interior minister, and the Gandhis can get away with charter planes. Kerala’s chief ministers have also stayed away from helicopters and they continue to do so, ”he said.
Then there are states like Assam that pose logistical challenges with their terrain and early sunrise / sunset, which is why they are in high demand for helicopters. Ajay Vir Singh, Managing Director of AirKing Charters Pvt Ltd, said: “About 12-15 helicopters are stationed in Assam for the election campaign, up from 8-10 last time. In 2005, when I ventured into this field, the demand for helicopters during elections was not that great. But now, helicopters have become an essential weapon to fight in the elections ”.
Captain Gelli said: “Considering that 2020 was a very bad year for aviation, these elections have been a lifesaver for some helicopter companies.”

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