Air Odisha’s maiden flight to Sambalpur takes off

Bhubaneswar: The first intra-sate flight of home-grown carrier Air Odisha bound for Sambalpur was flagged off by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the Biju Patnaik International Airport here on Tuesday.

“I am glad to inaugurate the air connectivity operation for flight between Bhubaneswar and other parts of the state today. This has been a long-felt need of the people of Odisha which my government has fulfilled. The air connectivity from Sambalpur, Rourkela, Jharsuguda and Jeypore to Bhubaneswar and back, I am sure, will be comfortable and affordable,” the chief minister said after inaugurating the new flight at the hangar of the old terminal of the airport here.

Talking to the media persons, Air Odisha CMD Radhakanta Pani hoped that it would be a long-term intra-state service as the initiative is taken by the state government.

He said as per the decision of the state government, the flight service would be initially linked to Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Rourkela and Jeypore from Bhubaneswar while each flight will have a maximum of nine passengers.

As per the schedule, the first flight would leave Bhubaneswar for Sambalpur at 6.30 AM everyday and return to Bhubaneswar via Jharsuguda while the next two flights would leave for Rourkela and Jeypore from Bhubaneswar.

Asked whether there is any security threat for the airliner in its flight to Jeypore, Pani said there is no such threat. “The Koraput collector will ensure all security measures for safe landing of Air Odisha flight in the Jeypore airstrip,” he added.

Pani also informed that there is no plan to increase the number of passengers. “This nine-seater, short-haul regional airliner and utility Grant Caravan aircraft is manufactured by Cessna of the United States. It is popular worldwide for its safety and reliability,” he pointed out.

Stating that Air Odisha would begin its flight to Jharsuguda, Rourkela and Jeypore from Thursday, he said the flight to Rourkela will be approximately delayed by a week as there is no Air Traffic Controller (ATC) there.

“As no aircraft can land in any airport without the permission of the ATC, airstrip authorities in the steel city have informed us to postpone the launch. Since the present ATC has retired from his service, the concerned airstrip authorities have requested the Centre to appoint an ATC, which will be done within a week after which Air Odisha will be able to run its flights from Rourkela,” Pani informed.

As regard the flight hours, it will take 50 minutes for Air Odisha to reach Sambalpur, 60 minutes to reach Rourkela and Jharsuguda and 90 minutes to reach Jeypore.

The fare for Sambalpur, Rourkela and Jharsuguda ranges from Rs 2499 to Rs 4500 while the Jeypore fare ranges from Rs 3499 to Rs 4500.

“Like all airlines, the fare for each passenger, to be serviced on a first-come-first-serve basis, will be Rs 2499 for Sambalpur, Rourkela and Jharsuguda while for Jeypore it would be Rs 3499,” Pani informed.

He, however, made it clear that there is no provision of concession for enior citizens.

Expressing happiness, director of Biju Patnaik International Airport, Sharad Kumar said the launch of the first intra-state flightthis is a historic day for Odisha.

“Intra-state air connectivity in the state was a long-term demand of the people. The Centre is also keen on modification of all existing airstrips and their modernisation for the benefit of the people. With the launch of intra-state air connectivity, the tourism industry will get a major boost while there will be opportunity for employment,” he added.

Stating that there has been a very good response to the launch of intra-state air services, Kumar said if there is more demands for air connectivity to other areas of the state in future, the airport authorities and the Centre will definitely go for another airliner to cater to the demands of the people of Odisha.

He further said the intra-state connectivity will be immensely helpful for rescue and relief operation during natural calamities.

Asked whether there is any plan to increase the number of passengers, Kumar said it depends on the response. “If there is overwhelming response, we will go for 50 or 70-seater ATR or CRJ aircraft,” he pointed out.

Welcoming the efforts of Air Odisha and the state government, BJD leader and Sambalpur MLA Raseswari Panigrahi said it is a historic day for the people of Western Odisha.

“Considering the number of industrial hubs and the upcoming and well-known institutes in this region, there was a need for intra-state air connectivity,” she added.