The Maharashtra cabinet led by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has approved a proposal to buy a new helicopter costing Rs 70 crore, following directives from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The current helicopter, a Dauphin, was brought for Rs 23.15 crore in 2000 and by November 2009, when it was grounded, it had clocked in 1,950 flying hours.
State Aviation Director Sanjay Karve said that as per DGCA guideleines, “we have to fit a composite voice and flight data recorder in the chopper, which will cost Rs 3 crore. Besides, the cost of overhaul will be around Rs 17 crore. The aircraft will have to be send to Eurocopter in France for a complete overhaul.”
As against this, "a new copter at Rs 70 crore makes more sense,” said a cabinet minister on condition of anonymity.
The state is looking at buying an N3 plus (upgraded version of the current copter) or Bell 412 or EC 155 or Sikorsky S-76. So far, despite repeated tenders, the state has not been able to sell off its old King Air helicopters.
“One can’t take risks when it comes to the chief minister,” said a senior IAS officer.
The government already owns two aircraft, a B 300 and a US made eight-seater Cessna. The Cessna purchase was okayed by then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for Rs 52 crore following friction between him and Home Minister R R Patil over the use of the aircraft.
The government chopper by protocol is meant for the governor, the chief minister and the deputy chief minister. Any cabinet minister can use it after putting in a request.