The proposed flight services of Air Odisha under the much-trumpeted UDAN scheme have run into rough weather with as many as eight airports across three states not ready for operations. Besides, the Bhubaneswar-based air charter firm is awaiting the scheduled commuter operator’s (SCO) permit from the aviation regulator DGCA, which will allow it to launch services on the designated routes under the scheme, a source in the know of things said.
“Eight of the 26 airports from where we have to launch regional flights under the UDAN scheme are ready for operations as some work is still going on.
“Besides, we have been waiting for our SCO permit from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. We are hopeful of getting it within this month. But even then, we will not be in a position to launch services at least before November due to the airport issues,” the source said.
Air Odisha is one of the five air operators who won bids for flying on 128 routes connecting 70 airports under the Government’s Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme, which seeks to provide air connectivity to the unserved airports as well as enhance flight operations to under served airports.
Unserved airports are the one where there is no flight whereas the underserved airports have been categorised as the ones which have three or less flights per week.
Under the scheme, the operators were given six months time to commence operations.
The source said that while four airports in Odisha — Utkela, Jharsuguda, Utkela and Rourkela — are yet to be functional, the work on one each in Gujarat (Meethapur in Dwarka district), Neyveli in Tamil Nadu, Bilaspur and Ambikapur in Chhattisgarh have also not been completed.
“Since we are providing network connectivity, we can’t launch operations unless all airports in the network are functional. And even if we start flights, it will not be economically viable,” the source said.
“We are also facing slot issue at Delhi airport, from where we have to fly to destinations such as Gwalior, Kanpur, Lucknow, Dehradun and Gorakhpur. We have been told that we could get some slots, but only in the winter schedule,” the source said.
The winter schedule of the airlines in India starts from the last Saturday of October every year.
According to the source, Air Odisha has already tied for seven 19-seater Beechcraft 1900D for operations from a South Africa-based lessor and one of them has already arrived in India.
“Five of the seven aircraft will be kept for flying, while the rest two will be on standby. We have already hired 25 expat commanders and 25 first officers and these pilots are currently undergoing training,” the source said.