Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chopper service to Ganga Sagar takes off

KOLKATA: At around 10.30am on Sunday, while his friends were still reading newspapers over a cup of tea, Rajiv Ranjan Pandey was soaring high. On the maiden flight of Pawan Hans from Kolkata to Ganga Sagar, the clothe merchant was on a flight of fancy.

As the eleven-seater Dauphin SA 365, the iconic twin-engined Eurocopter helicopter, started soaring to 3,000 feet above Kolkata, Pandey could feel the thrill he never felt on a plane. "I could see the city becoming smaller gradually. The ramming sound of the rotors that was driving the blades was the only sound I could hear. I was a little afraid initially," said Pandey, with a smile.

Minutes after taking off from Behala Flying Club, the helicopter took the southward route along the Hooghly river. "From above, the river looked like a long grey stretch flowing through green patches all across. You never get to see the cities so clearly if you are on a plane," a seemingly excited Pandey said.

"While the river was about to join the seas, it widened and for a moment it seemed we were flying over an ocean," Pandey said. Further south, Haldi river joined Hooghly.

The twin engine Dauphin that left Kolkata at 10.30am, picked up a speed of around 250 kilometre per hour within a few minutes. The entire stretch to the Sagar Island was covered in 30 minutes. "I could also see the huge chimney strutting out of the ground," said an amazed Sitaram Verma. One of the main obstructions for the pilots is the 965-feet high chimney stack of the CESC power plant in Budge Budge. The safety norms require helicopters to fly 1,000 feet over the tallest structure in the area.

While going from Kolkata to Ganga Sagar via road and waterways, passengers have to drive till Harwood Point. A ferry service from Harwood Point crosses the Muriganga river to reach Ganga Sagar.

On his first ride in a helicopter, Verma was excited to notice how a four-hour long journey to Ganga Sagar was reduced to merely 30 minutes. "There was no bumpy ride on the road, no waiting for the launch from Harwood Point. The journey was smooth," Verma said. "As the helicopter approached the Sagar Island, I could see Kapil Muni's Ashram. I think we were flying at 2,000 feet then," he added.

"We will fly from Kolkata to Ganga Sagar every Sunday initially. The state government has kept the fare at Rs 1,500 for one-way ride," said Sanjay Kumar, general manager (marketing), Pawan Hans. The once-in-a-week helicopter service will also cover Durgapur and Malda-Balurghat routes soon.

Kolkata- Gangasagar service

Will fly once every Sunday

Fare kept at Rs 1,500 (one side).

Tickets can be booked from Quick Service (Jadavpur) and Surabhi Communication (Howrah)

Will have to bring photo -ID both for purchasing tickets and boarding the aircraft.

Will have to reach at least one hour before boarding time.


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