Ne Re­gional ori ons

India Strategic - - APPOINTMENTS - By Joseph Noronha

THERE’S AN un­fa­mil­iar drone in the air – the hum of scores of new air­craft revving up to join In­dia’s air­lines. These are not the ubiq­ui­tous Air­bus A320 or Boe­ing 737 jets. Rather they are tur­bo­prop air­craft like the 78seat Bom­bardier Q400, the 70-seat ATR 72-600, and even smaller planes. And they won’t fly on the lu­cra­tive in­ter-metro routes. In­stead they will soon link dozens of Tier 2 and Tier 3 destinations that the car­ri­ers have long spurned.

A ca­sual ob­server of the avi­a­tion in­dus­try may be for­given for con­sid­er­ing this a pipe dream. In­dia con­tin­ues to break avi­a­tion records and its fig­ure of 100 mil­lion trav­ellers in 2016 makes it the world’s third largest do­mes­tic mar­ket. But with the sched­uled air­lines heav­ily bi­ased to­wards the met­ros, hun­dreds of small cities and towns across the coun­try are com­pletely miss­ing from the avi­a­tion map. How­ever, this seems set to change thanks to the govern­ment’s am­bi­tious new Re­gional Con­nec­tiv­ity Scheme (RCS).

UDAN ES­SEN­TIALS

The RCS, also known as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Na­grik), aims to pro­vide in­ex­pen­sive con­nec­tiv­ity to dozens of smaller destinations cur­rently un­der­served or un-served, en­abling even mid­dle-class pas­sen­gers to fly. The Air­ports Au­thor­ity of In­dia (AAI) is the im­ple­ment­ing agency and al­most 400 airstrips may ul­ti­mately be in­cluded in UDAN.

In the first round, an­nounced at the end of March af­ter a com­pre­hen­sive se­lec­tion process, 43 air­ports across 20 states and union ter­ri­to­ries have been se­lected. Of these, 31 are un-served air­ports (where

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