India's first entirely indigenously made Dornier type civil aircraft was pressed into service in the northeast with Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Tuesday flagging off the maiden flight from Assam's Dibrugarh to Arunachal Pradesh's Pasighat.
The officials of the Airport Authority of India said that the Dornier type aircraft of Alliance Air made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited from Tuesday began its commercial passenger services in different northeastern states.
The state-owned HAL has been manufacturing Dornier aircraft after transfer of technology from the German firm that owned it, but made-in-India aircraft 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.
The Dornier aircraft would operate on the Dibrugarh-Pasighat-Lilabari-Guwahati route twice a week beginning April 18.
During the event, Scindia was accompanied by Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju along with other dignitaries.
Speaking at the event, Scindia said that the new fixed-wing passenger services would 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, he said.
The Civil Aviation Minister said the Dornier 228 flights will start operating to and from Tezu in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh within the next 3 weeks and in the next 30 days Ziro in Lower Subansiri would also be connected.
"Expanding civil aviation is not only a facet of improved connectivity but it is Athe 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 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to develop the northeast at par with the rest of the country, with civil aviation being one of the important sectors.
Till 2014, there were only 74 airports in the country and since Modi came to power in 2014, the number of airports has increased to 140 in just seven years, the Civil Aviation Minister said.
In the northeast region, he said from 9 airports in the region in 2014, increased to 15 airports now.
"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 crore), is just one. 18 new airstrips and heliports worth Rs 180 crore will be built in the northeast in the coming days."
Scindia further said that of the Rs 500 crore budget received for air connectivity in the northeast from the Union Finance Ministry, almost 50 per cent of the fund is earmarked for Arunachal Pradesh.
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 utilised for developing infrastructure of the Pasighat airport.
In all six new heliports will be developed in Arunachal Pradesh at Daporijo, Itanagar, Tuting, Walong, Yingkiong and Ziro with 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 youth in the civil aviation sector.
"We need to provide training to our local youth so that they can be professionally employed in these airports as well as fly these aircrafts. Therefore, establishment of Flying Training Organisations (FTO) is a must in the region," he said.
The Union Minister said there are only 34 FTOs across the country and the ministry is planning to establish 9 new FTOs in the northeastern region. The first one would be opened at Lilabari.
In his speech, Khandu assured that with air connectivity getting a new boost, the rural economy of the state would witness a sharp rise in the days to come.
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