Manali: While government has failed to strengthen air connectivity in Himachal Pradesh, a horticulturist from a village near Manali with help of a Hyderabad company has started a non-scheduled flight on Kullu-Chandigarh airway. He even plans to link all three airports of Himachal by a special flight which has never been done before.
As small runways of Himachal cannot accommodate large plains, the private companies have started a regular sortie from Sunday (29.5.2016) with a nine-seater Cessna Grand Caravan 208B aircraft. The flight will take off from Chandigarh airport at 9:20 a.m. and land at Kullu Airport, Bhuntar at10 a.m. The return flight back to Chandigarh will take off at 10:10 a.m.
Depending on demand, the promoters are planning to connect Kullu with Delhi. IIC Technology Ltd, Hyderabad is operating the flight whereas Air Himalaya, a subsidiary of Himachal Holiday Pvt Ltd, a small company founded by Budhi Prakash Thakur, an orchard owner is behind the new venture.
“This is our third season on Bhuntar (Kullu) – Chandigarh route. We are leaving no stone unturned to expand our service area,” Budhi Prakash Thakur said, who spends most of his time in maintaining his apple orchard and hotel.
“We endeavored to be the first private player in aviation sector in Himachal Pradesh and started non-scheduled flights between Kullu and Chandigarh and Kullu and Delhi in 2014. After gap of few months, we again introduced the small aircraft last year but had to discontinue on June 25. Now we shall continue offering our services as long as there’s demand,” he said
The aircraft in its maiden sortie carried three passengers to Chandigarh. According to promoters, if government agrees on their proposal to bear a part of losses, then they could connect all three airports of Himachal at Shimla, Dharamshala and Kullu by the airline.
“It can be a success but there are always chances of loss in starting a new endeavor. Though, I being an agriculturist and horticulturist have not much resources. He added I need government help in compensating any potential risk,” says Thakur
Despite huge demand from tourists and local residents, Kullu and Shimla airports do not have regular flights.
Kullu Manali Airport director AN Sharma said currently Air India is operating its sorties between Kullu and Delhi. “A 72-seater Air India flight is operational but it cannot carry passengers to its capacity due to short runway. Today, flight carried 56 passengers only.