Bangalore: Before you board your aircraft, get into a chopper to reach the airport.
Deccan Aviation Ltd, which owns nine helicopters, plans to operate an intra-city chopper shuttle service in the state capital. This is to ferry to the new airport on Bangalore’s outskirts passengers who wish to avoid the city’s notorious traffic gridlocks.
The new airport, being built by Bangalore International Airport Ltd at Devanahalli, is 35km north of the city’s central business district (CBD). The airport will become operational in March, but it can be accessed from the city currently only through a clogged, four-lane national highway.
A 21km, six-lane highway planned to the new airport is behind schedule by more than a year. Karnataka Road Development Corp. Ltd, the state-owned nodal agency for the Rs498 crore project, is yet to issue tenders for building the tollway. At present, it takes an average 90-180 minutes to reach the airport from the city’s CBD, longer than the duration of flights to cities such as Hyderabad and Chennai.
“We have two helicopters in Bangalore. One can be put into shuttle service once the new airport starts,” says Capt. G.R. Gopinath, executive chairman of Deccan Aviation, which also runs India’s biggest low-cost airline.
Based in Bangalore, Deccan is preparing a detailed business plan for operating the heli-charter service, which will be ready by the month-end, Gopinath adds. A BIAL spokesperson declined to comment on the planned service.
Smooth transfer: A file photo of Deccan Aviation executive chairman Capt. G.R. Gopinath. With commuting from Bangalore’s central business district sometimes taking longer than some short-haul flights, Deccan promises passengers freedom from the city’s notorious traffic jams with its heli-charter service.
Bangalore’s current airport is owned by public sector defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and handles 8.1 million passengers a year. It will be closed for civil operations once the new airport opens. BIAL expects 10 million passengers a year to pass through the new airport, starting next year.
Bangalore, with a 6.5 million population, has more than three million vehicles on the road. Gridlocks are common and most people seem reconciled to lengthy commutes.
Deccan has identified two helipads, one in Palace Grounds in the heart of the city and another at UB City, a commercial complex owned by the UB Group. Group company United Breweries (Holdings) Ltd, which runs Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, owns 26% of Air Deccan.
“The helicopter service will serve a small number of people. But the bigger issue of smooth transfer of the 40,000-odd passengers who use the airport every day will remain,” says Gopinath.
Delhi Metro Corp. Ltd, which has built the metro rail in the country’s Capital, has submitted a proposal to the local government for a mass transit system to the airport. “We need a good underground metro that will take passengers to the airport,” adds Gopinath.