T.S. Shankar

CHENNAI: As part of its efforts to introduce “Heli-tourism” in a big way, the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has decided to collaborate with Pawan Hans Helicopters to introduce regular helicopter services between Madurai and Rameswaram and Madurai and Coimbatore.

Giving details of the new initiative after holding the first review meeting of “Heli-Tourism” at the TTDC office, the State Tourism Minister, N. Suresh Rajan, told The-Hindu that in the first phase, it has been agreed to launch 5-seater helicopter services between Madurai and Rameswaram and Madurai and Coimbatore from the first week of October.

Fillip to tourism

The introduction of helicopter services would provide a fillip to the tourism industry in the State and help attract more overseas tourists by providing convenient links to the major carriers operating out of Madurai.

Second phase

In the second phase, plans are afoot to link Madurai with Kodaikanal and Coimbatore with Udhagamandalam and start operations from Chennai. Detailed plans have also been chalked out with another Thiruvananthapuram-based operator to operate flights to Kanyakumari and to Palani.

The TTDC would enlist the support of the major air carriers operating out of Madurai to ensure that their services provided convenient connections to the proposed heli-tourism flights.

The Tamil Nadu Government would go all out to secure the necessary clearances from the Central Government, especially the Civil Aviation, the Union Home, the Union Environmental and the Union Tourism Ministries before October.

Seating capacity

The Minister said depending upon the success of the helicopter services, the helicopter operator had agreed to augment the seating capacity of the services.

“The Tamil Nadu Government through its tourism and TTDC would provide all logistic help to Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL), a Government of India Enterprise.”

Tentative tariff

The Minister said while the estimated cost for an hour’s flying had been quoted as Rs.50,000, the tentative tariff to cover the 45-minute journey between Madurai and Rameswaram per passenger would be Rs.7,506 and for the 35-minute journey to connect Madurai and Kodaikanal would be Rs.5,838.

The PHHL Deputy General Manager (Marketing), Sanjay Kumar, said the company wanted the State Tourism Department to include helicopter services in the tour packages offered by the TTDC, arrange for ticketing and handling services of passengers, besides expediting construction of new helipads at Kodaikanal and Rameswaram and securing permission to use the Madurai airport to commence operations from there.

The first meeting was attended by the State Tourism and Culture Secretary Incharge, T.S. Sridhar, the Information Technology Secretary, C. Chandramouli, Additional Secretary Public Department, Kumar Jayanth, the Director of Tourism and Managing Director of TTDC, M. Rajaram, and two Members of Parilament, Mr. PMohan (Madurai) and Mr. A.V.Bellarmin (Nagercoil).