Global tender out for separate NE airline

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Guwahati, May 22(UNI) Global tender for creation of a separate North East Airline by the North Eastern Council(NEC) was released today.

The NEC wants to run a commercial airline service among all the landlocked North Eastern states and is going to provide subsidy for making it economically viabile, said NEC Adviser (T&C) M.S Sodhi.

According to the tender note prepared by Mr. Sodhi, the basic objective of the airline is to provide air connectivity to all the state capitals as well as to all other operational airports in the region, including Bagdogra in West Bengal.

Further it has the objective to provide an effective and reliable schedule with maximum frequency which allows for travel from one destination to another and back the same day as well as utilizes the existing airline schedules to provide connectivity on trunk routes.

According to Mr. Sodhi's note intra-region air connectivity should be provided with a fixed wing aircraft. The aircraft should have short take and landing (STOL) capability and be a JetTurboprop one.

This has been the demand for all the state governments for long and states like Nagaland already went ahead and bought its own helicopter for commercial service linking remote districts which take long time to cover by road.

Earlier, the Prime Minister's Office had asked the government to come out with a fresh tender to float an airline that will connect a host of airports in the Northeast.

With the state-run Alliance Air's(AA) contract to run air services within the region having ended last December, the PMO had asked the government to float a global tender for an airline that will run a fleet exclusively for the region.

Top officials said the plan for an airline for the NE was floated by Manipur Governor S.S. Sidhu and was being pushed by Meghalaya Chief Secretary Ranjan Chatterjee.

Both have considerable experience in civil aviation sector and are of the opinion that an airline that would operate out of a hub at Guwahati and connect the difficult NE terrain using small passenger aircraft could be viable with a small subsidy.

The selected airline will be subsidized by funds from the NEC and be expected to fly as many as 400 flights every month connecting the region internally by the end of 2009.

Besides the 11 airports operational in the region, at least another 11 new ones will be ready for use by the end of this year while 25 more will come up during the 11th Five-Year Plan.

AA, which too is keen to bid for the tender, had continued to operate out of Kolkata and only deployed 30 per cent of its fleet time in the NE even after getting Rs 175 crore as subsidy from the NEC.

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