[ Junroi Mamai ]
ITANAGAR, May 22: With the landing of the 42-seater ATR 42 fixed-wing Alliance Airline flight at Pasighat airport on 21 May, Arunachal witnessed the start of a new chapter of improved connectivity in the state.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu and several officials from the state and central governments were the first to board the aircraft which touched down at Pasighat in East Siang district around 2.15 pm after a 1.5-hour journey from the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi airport in Guwahati.
However, it is pertinent to mention here that it was not the first commercial flight which the state hosted.
The first fixed-wing commercial flight airline in the state began in the 1980s. It was Vayudoot regional airline, a joint-venture between the two state-owned carriers, Indian Airlines and Air India.
Under the Vayudoot scheme, Dornier aircraft were used for commercial flights to Pasighat, Aalo, Daporijo, Tezu, Ziro, and Vijaynagar. However, those flights were short and did not serve food as private flights do these days.
The then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, launched the scheme in 1981 to connect the Northeastern region by air. At least 15-20 flights began to operate under the then union civil aviation ministry’s Vayudoot scheme to various Northeastern states, including Arunachal.
The service was later extended to states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Lakshwadeep, Maharashtra, Orissa, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal.
State Civil Aviation Secretary A Haque said, “The Vayudoot service stopped its services in 1993 following lack of adequate traffic to sustain operations on all the said routes. Later on, the government of India in 1995 launched the Pawan Hans helicopter service in the state to enhance connectivity.
“Considering the fact that commercial flights to the state resumed after three decades after the Vayudoot airlines stopped, it can be rightly said that the 21 May Alliance Airline flight was the first commercial flight to the state.”
[ Junroi Mamai ]