New Delhi, Apr 12 (PTI) Pawan Hans plans to expand its fleet by leasing eight more helicopters as it prepares to start services under the regional air connectivity scheme by August, a senior official said today.

The company, a joint venture between the government and state-owned ONGC, has a fleet of 42 helicopters. It bagged 11 routes spread across five states in the second round of bidding under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS).

The five states where it would start UDAN services are Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

“We have a plan to launch helicopter services (under RCS) to these states by July or August subject to heliports being ready,” Pawan Hans Chairman and Managing Director B P Sharma said.

To start the RCS services, he said infrastructure and commercial systems have to be developed as it would be “working as an airline”.

“We require more number of choppers… we have 42 helicopters and we are leasing eight more,” Sharma said on the sidelines of a conference organised by the Foundation for Aviation and Sustainable Tourism.

As many as 17 routes have been bid out for helicopter services in the second round of bidding under the RCS, including the 11 won by Pawan Hans.

RCS, also known as UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) seeks to connect unserved and under-served airports as well as make flying more affordable. Participating airlines and chopper service provides are provided with various incentives, including viability gap funding.

Speaking at the conference, Tourism Secretary Rashmi Verma said the ministry has proposed to create “five special tourism zones” in the country.

Besides, the ministry has selected 12 sites to be developed as iconic sites. It will have world class facilities as far as infrastructure is concerned, she added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.