The maiden flight of the West Bengal government’s helicopter service to four destinations in the State took off from here on Sunday. The first flight, described by Transport Minister Madan Mitra as the brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, took off from the Behala Flying Club.

The service was announced by Mr. Mitra on December 27.

Seven passengers

Seven passengers, the maximum the helicopter can carry, took the first ride to Gangasagar, a pilgrim spot on Sagar Islands at the confluence of the Hooghly and the Bay of Bengal in the Sundarbans.

Twin engine helicopters are being provided by the government-owned Pawan Hans Ltd. (PHL).

The State government is also planning to connect Krishnanagar in Nadia district and Baharampur in Murshidabad district.

On Sunday, the passengers paid a subsidised rate covering the distance in 35 minutes, which would they have otherwise covered by road and through riverine transport. The rides are now set to be extended to four other destinations, which will be a mix of industrial towns and tourism spots.

‘Transport system smarter’

The Trinamool Congress hailed the move, saying this marked the fulfilment of a promise made by the Chief Minister. It said the State’s transport system got smarter by a notch with the introduction of this passenger helicopter service.

The Transport Department had signed a MoU with PHL to commence the service. However, the takeoff point for the helicopter in the western part of the city was inconvenient for passengers due to lack of signage.