Chopper charter carrier Pawan Hans plans to start scheduled airline

State-owned Pawan Hans, the leader in offshore helicopter charters in India, has said it will soon start scheduled airline services. The new airline, likely to be called Pawan Hans, will start operations sometime next year. It has already got a no objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry of civil aviation, and is only awaiting a final nod from the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA).

The company plans to acquire six 18- to 24-seater small aircraft for Rs450 crore ($111.5 million) to operate on non-metro routes such as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as well as destinations in Uttarkhand, the northeastern states and other unfrequented sectors.

Altogether, Pawan Hans plans to invest Rs1,000 crore ($248 million) - to be raised through debt and internal accruals - to expand its operations. On the order list are 22 new choppers, to take its total fleet to 57 helicopters.

It will invest in its helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business and convert its Juhu heliport at Mumbai into a 'centre of excellence' in air-charter services. Pawan Hans is also planning a new heliport in Delhi, near the Akshardham temple, to provide air-taxi services in north India.

A senior Pawan Hans official said the airline wasn't desperate to make profits like commercial airlines, but wanted to consolidate its aviation business and emerge as a responsible air service provider. "We will give air connectivity to remote areas that have been ignored by the commercial airlines," he said. The management wants the Pawan Hans brand to emerge as the most diversified service provider in India's aviation industry.

But Pawan Hans has even bigger plans. It has received proposals from international clients to provide charter services for both the oil exploration and tourism businesses. It will provide choppers to Iranian and Indonesian oil exploration companies.

The governments of Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka have asked it to provide air connectivity to their tourism and pilgrimage sites. The company plans to go international as soon as it expands its fleet to over 50 helicopters and starts the new airline.