Ne Regional ori ons
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).
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