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  • News from the Indian Subcontinent

    Bell offers Tilt-Rotor as AW101 replacement for Indian Government VVIP requirement

    American firm Textron on Friday said it is ready to offer its unique V-22 Osprey helicopter to India for ferrying its dignitaries.

    "We are ready to offer to India the V-22 Osprey in the VIP configuration through the Foreign Military Sales route. It is a unique and competitive product," Textron India president and Managing Director Inderjit Sial told PTI.
    The offer comes weeks after India scrapped a contract to buy VVIP choppers from the Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland on account of alleged kickbacks.

    Sial was asked about the possibility of offering any chopper of Bell Helicopters, an arm of Textron, for meeting the VVIP chopper requirements of the Indian Air Force.

    The government scrapped the contract with AgustaWestland, accusing it of breaching a pre-contract integrity pact and other contractual obligations in the Rs. 3,600 crore contract.

    India has so far received only three choppers from the Anglo-Italian firm and is considering the option of using Mi-17V5 choppers being procured from Russia for the purpose.

    Sial said the V-22 Osprey has already been inducted into the American president's fleet in VVIP configuration and is being used to ferry his entourage.

  • #2
    Sindh to launch helicopter service for Gorakh Hill Station

    KARACHI - The Sindh government is utilising all resources for developing the historical recreational station in Sindh, the Gorakh Hill Station, while a helicopter service will be started from Karachi to this historical site for tourists in the future.

    Gorakh Hill Development Authority Board Chairman Sardar Rafiq Ahmed Jamali said this while chairing a meeting with the Gorakh Hill Development Authority Board members at his office on Thursday.

    He said that the Sindh government had taken steps for construction of means of communications especially the roads to the Gorakh Hill Station for which necessary funds would be released shortly.

    MPA Syed Ghulam Shah Jilani, District Dadu Deputy Commissioner Nasir Abbas Soomro, Sindh Local Government Department Special Secretary Ghulam Akbar Leghari, Sindh Planning and Development Department Chief Economist Mahtab Ul Haq, Sardar Yar Muhammad Buzdar, Gorakh Hill Development Authority Director General Dr Iqbal Saeed Khan attended the meeting.

    The meeting decided that a special helicopter service would be launched from Karachi to Gorakh Hill station for the tourists and a portion of land measuring around 200, 000-acre would be handed to the Gorakh Hill Development Authority Board.

    Jamali said that despite paucity of funds required for the development of the recreational station of the Gorakh Hill, the Sindh government had been exploring new and alternative avenues for meeting the financial needs of the Gorakh Hill Station.

    He said that there would be established 16 tourist huts and a 6-bed rest house, a 10-bed hospital and restaurants for the tourists at the hill station. Further, the PPP lawmakers in the Sindh assembly and national assembly have also been contributing with pecuniary funds to this cause.


    • #3
      Gallantry awards: Indian Air Force pilot, Army jawan win Kirti Chakra; many others get Shaurya Chakra

      New Delhi: Apilot who rescued 80 passengers before his helicopter crashed in the inclement weather in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district and a Junior Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army, who fought with militants on the Line of Control are the winners of India's second highest peace-time gallantary award, the Kirti Chakra, announced on eve of the Republic Day today.

      Darrayl Castellino from Mumbai was the captain of a Mi-17 V 5 helicopter in Uttarkashi when it went down.

      A resident of Rupendehi district in Nepal, Naib Subedar Bhupal Singh Chhantel Magar of 5/5 Gorkha Rifles was awarded the Kirti Chakra for "displaying exceptional bravery, raw courage and junior leadership beyond the call of duty, in successful counter infiltration operations" along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.

      Three other helicopter pilots, including Castellino's co-pilot, Flt Lt K Praveen have won Shaurya Chakras. Seven Army men have also won Shaurya Chakras too.

      Among them is Lieutenant Colonel Bikramjit Singh. the second-in-command of 16 Cavalry has been awarded "Shaurya Chakra" (Posthumous) for his "speedy, tactically sound actions, courageous and bold leadership in the face of mortal danger and for acting swiftly without waiting for a weapon or protective gear, acting well beyond the call of duty, in the highest traditions of the Indian Army in Counter Terrorist Operations in Samba (J&K)."


      • #4
        Goa to launch helicopter tourist service

        PANAJI, India - Helicopter tourist service in Goa will take off next season. The high-powered committee (HPC) for tourism infrastructure projects headed by chief minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday approved in principle the proposal made by Mumbai-based Pawan Hans helicopters to run the helicopter ride service in the state.

        Goa tourism development corporation chairman Nilesh Cabral, a member of the HPC, told TOI that Pawan Hans needs the time to set up the infrastructure in the state. Pawan Hans representatives made a presentation before the HPC members on Friday evening. The tentative fare offered by the company for helirides is Rs 220 to 250 per minute.

        GTDC's sea plane project that was approved a few months ago, is likely to begin in March, Cabral said. The government has selected Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt Ltd, (MEHAIR) to operate seven routes in the state.

        HPC also granted approval for a ropeway project on Friday. The ropeway will be erected from Reis Magos in Verem to Kala Academy in Panaji spanning the river Mandovi. Ropeways have been a big hit at tourist destinations in other parts of the country.

        Recently, GTDC had decided to introduce a women-driver taxi service in collaboration with a private partnership. While Mumbai-based Green Earth Translogistic Pvt Ltd (GETPL) has made a proposal to GTDC offering to train women drivers, GTDC has decided to rope in more players. HPC agreed to float expressions of interest to bring in more parties, Cabral said.


        • #5
          Who Will Replace AgustaWestland As India’s VVIP Helicopter Supplier?

          With the suspension of the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal the status of the Indian Air Force’s VVIP chopper procurement has left contenders vying to fulfill India’s requirement.

          AW101 VVIP Interior

          Some reports say that the Indian Air Force now plans to use Russian Mi-17 helicopters that, ironically were dropped from competition in 2006, to ferry VVIPs. Rosoboronexport was eliminated because the company did not agree to sign the integrity clause with the IAF.

          However, in 2008, India ordered 80 Mi-17 V5 transport helicopters from Russia worth $1.2 billion which are expected to be delivered this year with a follow-on clause to buy 59 additional helicopters worth $884 million.

          While the IAF makes do with the Mi-17, the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey has gained considerable interest as a possible replacement to the as the AW101.

          “The Bell Boeing team continues to field interest from various international governments and is poised to support the U.S. government in foreign military sales of the V-22 Osprey.


          • #6
            India Opts For Russian Mi-17V-5 Helicopters After Cancelling AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper Deal

            India has picked Russian Helicopters to supply 12 VVIP choppers to be used to transport high profile leaders, the Rostec state corporation said in a press release. The Mi-17V-5 helicopter was chosen by the country’s Special Protection Group (of the 150 helicopters already delivered to India) for escorting the most important politicians in India during the election season.

            The announcement comes weeks after India cancelled the VVIP helicopter deal with AgustaWestland following bribery allegations. Vadim Ligai, General Director of Kazan Helicopter Plant, said the Indian Mi-17V-5s are “fairly complex helicopters.

            Interior of the VIP Mi-17

            Their development process certainly wasn’t easy.” For example, they are not equipped with analog instruments, but have displays that are all grouped together in a ‘glass cockpit.’

            By the end of 2014, Radio Electronic Technologies (KRET), which is part of the Rostec state corporation, will provide Russian Helicopters with 76 sets of high-tech avionics including KNEI-8 navigation and electronic instrumentation developed by Ryazan State Instrument Plant, which is part of KRET, according to the statement.


            • #7
              New AS350 B3e for Nepal

              Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) presents Shree Airlines of Nepal with their newest helicopter at the Singapore Air Show.

              Shree Airlines of Nepal has received the first of five AS350 B3e helicopters ordered in 2013 from Airbus Helicopters.

              Shree Airlines AS350B3e in Nepal

              The new AS350 B3e is on display at the Changi Exhibition Centre as part of the Airbus Group exhibition at this week’s Singapore Airshow.

              The airline currently has one AS350 B3e in its fleet and will use the new Airbus Helicopters for services that include disaster relief, search and rescue. The airline plans to expand passenger transport and utility mission operations into the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar in the future.

              “Airbus Helicopters is ready to support Shree Airlines as it develops services in one of the world’s most challenging operating environments,” said Derek Sharples, managing director of Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia. “It can count on the AS350 B3e’s capabilities, as well as the full resources of our technical hub in Singapore.”

              When deliveries of all five new AS350 B3e are completed, Shree Airlines will be the largest operator of this model in Nepal.
              “We look forward to growing our business with the AS350 B3e. Its enhanced performance fits well with our strong focus and commitment towards providing safe and high quality services to our private and governmental customers, along with multinational organizations that include the United Nations,” said Shree Airlines managing director Sudhir Mittal.

              More about Shree Airlines here.


              • #8
                Sikkim launches chopper service to Kanchenjunga

                New Delhi: A 15-minute helicopter service to witness breathtaking views of India's highest peak Kanchenjunga has been launched by the Sikkim government. The service, available from state capital Gangtok, will provide magnificent views of pristine peak, which assumes different colours during different hours of the day.

                The helicopter service to Kanchenjunga, covered with cloud and snow, is available round the year on demand but mainly operational during March to May and September to November, an official release said.

                This is a significant step by the northeastern state to attract more tourists to India's one of the iconic symbols and third highest mountain in the world, located at 28,169 feet (8,586 metres). Interestingly, Kanchenjunga can be viewed from every corner of Sikkim and provides splendid views. It is considered as a sacred mountain by the natives of the state and is the guardian deity of people of Sikkim.

                The Himalayan state offers ultimate challenges to adventure seekers. The state government is focussing on attracting new segment of tourists and trying to provide more options for adventure tourists who constitute about 70 per cent of the market.

                Around eight lakh tourists visit the state to have glimpse of the five sacred peaks of Kanchenjunga annually and the state government aims to attract 15 lakh tourists annually in next five years by strengthening tourism infrastructure and modern facilities, Sikkim Tourism Minister Bhim Dhungel said in the release.


                • #9
                  India to Begin Autonomous Servicing of Mi-17 Fleet

                  The Indian Air Force (IAF) are to begin in-country maintenance of the Russian-made Mi-17 1V helicopters. This is important because even though India has a sizeable number of aircraft of this make, with the latest Mi-17 V5 series too being inducted recently, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has not parted with the technology in the 1V series.

                  Without transfer of technology (ToT) for the Mi-17 1V version, the IAF was entirely dependent on the OEM. Over the last some months, however, the base repair depots (BRD) under IAF's maintenance command have been able to largely manage the overhaul on their own. So far three helicopters have been overhauled with the fourth on its way out, said a senior officer involved in the affair.

                  Even though there was no ToT, it was found that the systems in Mi-17 1V are almost similar to those in the basic Mi-17s, in which the IAF is already well-versed. All the major components of Mi-17 1V, except four that are not mainline spares, have been now developed by the maintenance command itself. It has also geared up for overhaul of the fleet on a regular basis, said the source.


                  • #10
                    Pilot Surge Predicted in India

                    The demand for trained pilots in the helicopter sector seems to be on a high if one considers how The Helicopter Academy to Train by Simulation of Flying (HATSOFF), a joint venture of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE), has been performing over the last four years.

                    Wing Commander N S Krishna, the CEO of HATSOFF told Deccan Herald that the helicopter training centre has been graduating 200 to 250 pilots each year, since 2010 when training operations commenced.

                    Krishna also estimates that “over the next five years, the country would have 250 to 300 new helicopters in the civil sector and there is a need for around 8,000 pilots.”“The market scene for pilots seems fine over the next five to eight years though we would have liked higher and quicker growth.

                    “At HATSOFF, we offer training to pilots who have the basic training licence. In Bangalore, you can procure the basic licence from The HAL Rotary Wing Academy after six months of training. The trained pilots then come to us to learn higher level flying or conversion training, in which the pilots will fly specific helicopters that are not the basic ones. (like Schweizer 300C/Schweizer 330SP). Since people are likely to own different helicopters, training on specific models would be useful,” said Krishna.

                    The HATSOFF Helicopter Training Centre offers a comprehensive turnkey facility for helicopter flight training on level D Simulator and offers complete training solutions for the Bell 412, Eurocopter Dauphin, and both military and civil variants of the HAL-built Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).

                    The pilots get to train on twin engine copters, while basic training is on a single engine copter. The duration of this advanced flying would be 15 hours over 15 days and would also include a week’s ground training. Training at HATSOFF costs upto Rs one lakh and more.

                    The helicopter market, says Wing Commander Krishna, would expand rapidly if infrastructure for helicopters is built.

                    “We should build helipads or comfortable landing decks in a variety of regions. Assured of landing facilities, industries, private individuals, companies and the political-government establishments would go in for fairly large number of copters. All of these will need trained pilots. The expansion of helicopter market looks realistic though a lot will depend on how policies come up.”

                    There are around 50 helicopter operators country-wide who are constantly in need of pilots given shortage of qualified pilots and flying instructors. India had no civil helicopter pilots training school approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation up until 2000.

                    Helicopter operators were dependent solely on former defence pilots for operations. Only when HAL decided in the late nineties to develop the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), helicopter training emerged in Bangalore. HAL’s reasoning was if it could establish a helicopter pilots training institute, it would not only help produce civil pilots for civil copters, but promote the ALH civil version in the market.

                    Flying instructors, ground instructors and aircraft maintenance engineers are all either ex-HAL or ex-defence persons, with vast flying and technical experience, and are the key people who train a large body of potential pilots. The Academy has trained pilots from the Royal Nepal Army, Indian Army, Coast Guard and BSF, among others.


                    • #11
                      Shree Airlines AS350 Reaches Nepal

                      KATHMANDU, MAR 30 - Shree Airlines has added an Airbus AS350 B3e helicopter , second of the five choppers ordered from Airbus Helicopters, to its fleet. The 9N-AKP chopper landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport on Saturday.

                      Manufactured in France, the six-seater chopper costs Rs 250 million. With this, the company’s fleet has grown to eight — six of them being 24-seater Russian-made MI-17.

                      The new AS350B3e

                      “With growing demand for search and rescue, aerial work and tourism, we have added the new helicopter that can excel in hot conditions and at very high altitudes,” said Banwari Lal Mittal, executive chairman of Shree Airlines.

                      “Besides, we will target high-end Indian visitors, particularly for pilgrimage in Kailash Mansarovar and Damodar Kund among others,” he said, adding the company’s aggressive move to add more choppers is aimed at catering to the growing demand of mountain and religious tourism in Nepal. “We plan to add rest of the five orders to our fleet by 2016.”

                      Shree Airlines, which possesses the Air Operators’ Certificate to fly on international routes, is the first Nepali private airline to operate with a fully-owned fleet of five helicopters. The AS350 B3e has a maximum speed of 287 km per hour and with standard tank a range of 638 km, with a maximum endurance of nearly 4.5 hours.



                      • #12
                        Indian Helicopter Operators Demand Security Changes

                        Indian helicopter operators have asked the country’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to revoke a new requirement making pilots personally responsible for conducting security checks on passengers.

                        Ahead of India’s long election campaign, which ends this month and involves extensive use of chartered helicopters by politicians, the DGCA sent out a directive that obliges pilots to personally search passengers for guns and other illegal items. They are also required to enforce restrictions on charter customers bringing additional passengers on flights at the last minute, a common expectation for election campaign flights.

                        A Pawan-Hans AS365N Dauphin engaged in election flying in India

                        The Rotary Wing Society of India (RWSI) lodged a complaint with the DGCA after a helicopter pilot and one of the operator’s mechanics were allegedly beaten up by aides working for an unidentified politician after refusing a request to change the destination for a flight at a time when it was too late to get the required official clearance from the Election Commission. “VIPs are not used to being refused or frisked for carrying weapons and cash by pilots, a procedure generally done by security agencies. This was one of the things that caused friction in the recent beating-up incident,” RWSI president K. Sridharan told AIN.

                        India’s complex and inflexible bureaucracy makes it difficult to alter passenger manifests at the last minute, but operators have found that charter customers resent being told they cannot bring additional passengers with them. “Election flying is a highly demanding exercise…long flying hours, many takeoffs and landings, weather changes, lack of proper rest and recuperation arrangements, hurriedly prepared helipads, frequent changes in itinerary, time management, tense security arrangements, crowd control, congested airspace, lack of adequate communication and airspace management,” the DGCA acknowledged in its official advisory covering arrangements for charter flights during the election.

                        The RWSI is demanding that DGCA officials themselves enforce regulations at airports, rather than expecting operators to shoulder this burden.



                        • #13

                          HAL To Establish New MRO

                          Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. is setting up a new hangar for the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of composites used in the production of its aircraft.

                          The hangar will come up near the Helicopter Complex on the old airport road here. Secretary for Defence Production G. Mohan Kumar laid the foundation stone for the hangar on Thursday in the presence of HAL Chairman R.K. Tyagi, directors and senior executives, according to an official statement.

                          Composites are light-weight combination of more than one material and are used in aerospace products. HAL uses them in its helicopters and fighter planes – which include the Advanced Light Helicopter, the Light Utility Helicopter under development and the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.

                          Mr. Kumar also visited HAL facilities in the city and reviewed various projects.


                          • #14
                            Bring Our Helicopter Back!

                            The residents of 35 remote villages on the Indo-China border in Uttarakhand are demanding the return of their recently disbanded helicopter service.

                            Earlier, locals had to walk about 50 kms from Garabhdhara over two-three days to reach their homes, because these villages in the Pithoragarh district lack road connectivity in the wake of last year’s flash floods. So, the Uttarakhand government started a trial helicopter service project this year to connect these far-flung villages. The air service took people to Gunji in less then 20 minutes, saving time and energy. Unsurprisingly, it became a big hit.

                            The helicopter project was discontinued over a month ago and is slated to return in June next year. But residents who took a fancy to the project are now demanding regular flights.

                            Villagers in Uttarakhand want 'their' helicopter back

                            The state government started the service on June 29 from Dharchula to Buddhi and Gunji, as well as Munsyari, to help villagers living in the Vyas, Darma, Chaudas and Johar valley of the district. Seven villages of Vyas valley, 13 of Darma, 14 of Chaudas valley and one from the Johar valley reaped benefits from the service.

                            Most of these villages are located on the Kailash Mansarovar route. Every year, from the end of May to the first week of June, the trek route comes to life for six months with the movement of pilgrims heading for and returning from the Mansarovar pilgrimage. Otherwise, there is little movement on the trek - used by locals, army men and occasional tourists during the off-season.

                            Dharchula’s sub-divisional magistrate Pramod Kumar said: “We began the air service in June and stopped it on September 7. A total of 1,050 locals availed the facility. We had to increase the fare from Rs 1,035 (subsidised rate) to Rs 5,000 to control the huge rush. Locals are demanding the service be made regular, which we will from next year. Besides, they also want the fare be fixed at `3,000 per head.”

                            Local Tej Singh Gunjayal said: “I used to reach my village Gunji in two days after trekking 45 kms. The effort was physically demanding. The chopper service was like a breath of fresh air. Convenient and amazing!”

                            When visibility was poor, the chopper landed 17 kms down at the Buddhi village.

                            Seventy-five-year-old Sher Singh Pangtey, a resident of Munsyari, said: “The service was a boon for the elderly wanting to visit their native village. This service should be promoted to boost tourism in this part of the world.”