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Dorniers in Air India colours to boost regional connectivity

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Air India Regional Dornier Do 228

New Delhi/Kanpur, Dec 4 : After serving the Indian armed forces in various capacities, the German-origin, India-made twin-turboprop Dornier Do-228 aircraft is soon expected to don the colours of flag carrier Air India to boost regional connectivity.

The aircraft, best known for its specialist roles of surveillance, transport, search and rescue, has been found fit by the national passenger carrier to provide ferrying services under the country’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme (RCS) christened as UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik).

According to two senior officials with the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Air India has shown interest in at least two civilian versions of the 19-seater aircraft.

“Air India has shown interest in the Dornier aircraft. This has sprung from the fact that the aircraft has a very low operational and maintenance cost,” a senior HAL official told on condition of anonymity.

“Even in terms of the overall off-the-shelf price and lifecycle costs, the aircraft is far too competitive to its closest rivals, not to mention the proven track record of the aircraft with the Indian armed forces,” the official told IANS on the phone from Kanpur, where the aircraft is manufactured under licence.

The official elaborated that though due diligence has been conducted by Air India, the two parties are yet to enter into a formal agreement for purchasing the two aircraft.

“We are currently manufacturing two Dornier aircraft for civilian roles which will be ready by the mid of next year,” the official said.

The twin-turboprop, high-wing aircraft has been used for different purposes, such as VIP transport, surveillance, air observation, air ambulance services, cargo and logistics support, and maritime surveillance.

Last year, the aircraft had received regulatory approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for a civilian role in accordance with the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR 21G).

The aircraft originally manufactured by RUAG — a Swiss technology major — is being license manufactured by HAL since the 1980s at its Kanpur facility.

Air India, which will participate in the upcoming reverse-bidding round for allocation of RCS routes on December 5, is said to have selected the aircraft for its low-operational cost.

This may be the second innings of the aircraft in civilian role after it had served the few civil aviation players more than two decades ago.

“Operating a small aircraft with lesser number of seats jacks up the total operational cost manifolds. So an aircraft with an overall low operational and maintenance cost is best chosen for these types of operations,” an Air India official said.

The UDAN scheme envisages enhancing air passenger traffic in the country by stimulating demand on regional routes.

The operations under the scheme are intended to provide air connectivity to unserved and remote routes, with airfare being capped at Rs 2,500 for an hour’s journey of around 500 km.

The allocation of routes under the scheme will be based on a reverse bidding mechanism, with selected airlines getting a VGF (viability gap funding), apart from various other financial concessions for a period of three years.

While the central government is expected to provide concessions in the form of reduced excise duty and service tax, the state governments will have to lower the VAT (value added tax) on air turbine fuel (ATF) to one per cent or less.

Besides, the state governments would not charge on security and fire services, and electricity, water and other utilities would be provided at concessional rates.

On their part, airport operators will not impose landing and parking charges and terminal navigation landing fees. They would also offer discounts on route navigation facility charges.

As per another HAL official, “Last year, the HAL board sanctioned the production of two civil Dornier aircraft. HAL intends to operate these from its own airport at Nashik.”

Last month, the Union cabinet had approved the purchase of 12 Dornier aircraft for the Indian Navy for Rs 2,500 crore.

Currently, HAL is manufacturing 16 Dornier aircraft for various customers, including the IAF. In 2015, the HAL had bagged an order for 14 Do-228 aircraft for the IAF.

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Mail/Express trains to get saloons for exclusive journey

Railways has given written instruction to all zonal railways to allow saloons to be attached to all scheduled mail/express trains across the country. The Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and Gatimaan expresses have been exempted from this.

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IRCTC Sloon Coach

New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) Aiming to increase earnings, Indian Railways will add a saloon to mail/express trains if booked by passengers for exclusive travel for reaching destination in comfort by paying a little more.

Known as an Inspection Car, a saloon is a specially designed rail coach with two bedrooms, a drawing/dining room, two bathrooms, an attendant’s room and a kitchen.

Facing stiff competition from low cost carriers the national transporter is in the process of coming out with many innovative approaches to perk up revenue.

Saloons are used by senior railway officials on their inspection duty. Ministers are also entitled to use the saloon during their rail journey.

Though the saloon can comfortably accommodate six passengers, one has to pay the equivalent of 18 first class fare for the same destination in the scheduled train.

Image result for saloons in train

IRCTC opens luxury railway saloons to public; coaches to offer valet service, air-conditioned rooms

“We have allowed saloon to be booked by any passenger. It would be added as an additional coach to the existing mail/express train on demand after paying the prescribed rate,” a senior Railway Ministry official said.

One can book the saloon through IRCTC, the railways’ tourism and catering wing.

Railways has given written instruction to all zonal railways to allow saloons to be attached to all scheduled mail/express trains across the country. The Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and Gatimaan expresses have been exempted from this.

Currently, a Mail/Express train have between 18 to 24 coaches.

Since the saloon is equiped with cooking facility, customers will be free to make their own catering arrangements.

Railways expect the saloon will be in demand in tourist destinations and it would also be a much sought after service by newly married couples.

By : Arun Kumar Das

( is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Qatar Airways boss sorry for anti-women jibe

Qatar Airways says 44 per cent of its workforce are female. Al Baker said he supports efforts to bring a woman in to lead Air Italy, in which the Middle Eastern carrier owns a stake.

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Qatar Airways, anti-women jibe

Sydney, June 7 (IANS) Qatar Airways’s board Chairman has apologized for his remark that a woman could not run his airline, saying his comment was taken out of context, media reports said.

Akbar Al Baker made the initial remark at an annual meeting in Sydney of the International Air Transport Association, an industry group made up of major airlines including big US carriers, Efe reported.

“Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position,” Al Baker said, in an audio recording of the Tuesday press conference that was posted to Twitter.

He apologized but said the media took the comment out of context.

Al Baker is the group’s new board Chairman and the meeting in Sydney attracted some 1,000 attendees.

On Wednesday, at a separate conference in Sydney run by market-intelligence firm Centre for Aviation, Al Baker said he didn’t mean he “would discourage any woman to come and take my position.”

He said, “It was just a joke, everybody laughed and I thought that was the end of the story.”

Qatar Airways says 44 per cent of its workforce are female. Al Baker said he supports efforts to bring a woman in to lead Air Italy, in which the Middle Eastern carrier owns a stake.

But many parts of the aviation industry are still dominated by men. The International Society of Women Airline Pilots says not even 5 per cent of airline aviators are women.

A 2015 Centre for Aviation study found 94 per cent of airlines are led by men. The new 31-member governing board of IATA has just two female members.

Some airline executives at the Wednesday event agreed with Al Baker that his comments were blown out of proportion, but said they recognized the need for more women to get involved in the industry.

Martin Gauss, Chief Executive of Latvian airline airBaltic, said the industry must make it clear to young women that having a career as a pilot is a possibility.

Still, no women spoke on a half-day of panels at the Centre for Aviation event on Wednesday, a report in Dow Jones said.

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Now, Shimla is just 20 minutes away from Chandigarh

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helitaxi-shimla-chandigarh
The heli-taxi service that will cut down the travel time by four hours. (Photo- AIR)

Shimla, June 4: The travel distance between this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort and Chandigarh was reduced to just 20 minutes with the launch of a heli-taxi service on Monday.

The state government in association with helicopter service operator Pawan Hans Ltd launched a to and fro heli-taxi service on the Chandigarh-Shimla route, cutting down the earlier four hours travel time.

Each sortie, with 19 passengers on board, will offer a minimum fare of Rs 2,999 per person. It will initially ply twice a week, Monday and Friday.

The helicopter will take off from Shimla’s airport at Jubbarhatti at 8 a.m. and reach the Chandigarh International Airport at 8.20 a.m.

helitaxi-shimla-chandigarh

And from Chandigarh to Shimla, the flight will take off at 9 a.m. and reach Shimla at 9.20 a.m., an official with Pawan Hans told IANS.

He said the frequency of heli-taxi service would be increased depending on response of the passengers.

Otherwise, it takes minimum four hours to travel between Shimla and Chandigarh by road.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur flagged off the first service from Shimla. He said this would greatly help to boost the tourism industry in the state.

The government is also planning to start heli-taxi service between Chandigarh and Manali and sortie service from Manali to the majestic Rohtang Pass, an official said.

Members of the tourism industry are elated as they are hopeful that high-end tourists, especially foreigners and business travellers, will prefer to visit the state capital and its nearby destinations by flights.

“We are hopeful that the heli-taxi service will give boost to the tourism industry,” D.P. Bhatia, liaison officer with Shimla-based Oberoi Group of hotels, told IANS.

IANS

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