An exclusive chopper for the Badals
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Rs 38-crore Bell 429 set to be delivered within fortnight
The SAD-BJP government is set to get a helicopter for the exclusive use of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy, Sukhbir Singh Badal, within the next fortnight.
In August, 2012, the state civil aviation department had signed a purchase agreement with US-based Bell Helicopters to purchase a Bell 429 — a twin-engine five seater helicopter worth Rs 38 crore — to fly the CM and Sukhbir.
Last month, the chopper was brought to New Delhi by dismantling it from US. It was then once again assembled in the national capital. Recently, the chopper's first test flight was successfully carried out. Now, it is waiting for certification from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
"Once the paper work is done, the company will hand over the chopper to the state civil aviation department. It is expected that within the next 15 days, formalities should be over,'' said a senior official.
According to sources, about two months ago, interviews were held for appointing three pilots for the chopper by a four-member committee. But till date, their names have not been cleared by the government — they have first to be cleared by a cabinet sub-committee, which has not met till date. "As the helicopter is likely to be delivered soon and pilots have not been recruited by the government, we are contemplating that for some time, will hire pilots from a private operator to fly the helicopter,'' said an official.
Sources added that the government wants to have its own flying machine, as currently, it has to pay a minimum of Rs 15 crore every year to hire helicopters. Also, the state was finding it difficult to hire helicopters that adhere to new DGCA guidelines for flying VVIPs. "There are only a few such flying machines and they can't be hired on a permanent basis. At times, when the chief minister or the deputy CM had to fly, there was no helicopter available," an official said.