State-owned Pawan Hans is looking at operating sea plane services, maintenance and repair of helicopters and skill development to go beyond its bread-and-butter business of helicopter services, according to officials familiar with the development. The company is also talking to at least five state governments including the Yogi Adityanath dispensation in Uttar Pradesh to form joint ventures to cater to the local needs for tourism and other purposes.
One of the officials said the company’s gameplan included grabbing opportunities thrown up by the government’s regional connectivity scheme.
Pawan Hans is a 51:49 joint venture between the government of India and state-owned explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd.
The official said the company was looking to operate small planes that have a seating capacity of 15-20 including ones that can land on sea. “We are looking to operate 15-20 seater planes. We are also looking to fly sea planes with capacity of 6-10 seats and 18-20,” he said. Another area that Pawan Hans is eyeing is skill development for flying helicopters.
Though not strictly comparable, helicopters are more expensive to operate with their cost of operations being at least four times more than the cost of flying a plane.
“There is a huge shortage of pilots for flying helicopters. Most of the helicopter pilots are retired personnel from Indian Air Force. Some are trained at Hindustan Aeronautics’ Bengaluru centre while some others undergo training in Canada. But there is a genuine shortage of these pilots. We want to fill that gap,” he said, adding the company had set up a centre at Rohini in Delhi to train aspirants to become helicopter pilots.
The company also wants to get into maintenance and repair as the popularity of helicopter services increases and hence the demand for their upkeep.
Pawan Hans is also exploring the possibility of forming joint ventures with state governments to facilitate tourist mobility to and from destinations like Char Dham and Buddha Circuit. One state government the company is talking to is Uttar Pradesh’s Yogi Adityanath regime. According to the other official, the state was even willing to provide a top-up subsidy beyond the subsidy being given by the Centre under its regional connectivity scheme.
“The UP government is willing to give under-writing on 30 percent of the seats beyond the mandated 50 percent,” this official said.
Under the regional connectivity scheme, the government auctions selected unserved and under-served routes with the award going to the company that asks for the lowest viability gap funding. The winner gets a 3-year exclusive right to operate flights on the route. Fare for half the seats in a flight is capped at Rs 2,500 for an hour of a flight journey of approximately 500 km and a 30-minute helicopter journey.
The selected airline provides 50 percent of the flight capacity – with a minimum of 9 and maximum of 40 seats for planes and a minimum of 5 and maximum of 13 seats for helicopters — under the regional connectivity scheme. The government plans to hold the second round of auctions in two months.
Pawan Hans is a disinvestment candidate with the government keen to its sell 51 percent stake in the company to a strategic buyer including ONGC if it is interested. Consulting firm Deloitte has been entrusted with the task of studying the company and preparing the documents to put it up for sale.
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