The Minister of Civil Aviation has announced that the process for bidding for the second round of the Regional Connectivity Scheme – UDAN.
The thrust in the second round will be on improving connectivity to priority areas like the North East, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh , Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshdweep by introducing more operational flexibility and promoting helicopter operations.
About UDAN Scheme and the recent changes:
The Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on 15th June 2016. ‘
UDAN was launched in October, 2016 with the prime objective to facilitate / stimulate regional air connectivity by making it affordable for the masses.
Among the important changes that are being effected, routes with stage length less than 150 Kms will now be permitted for operations as RCS Routes through fixed wing aircraft.
This is aimed at providing enhanced connectivityand ease the formation of networks under the Scheme. While exclusivity of operations will continue to be applicable for a period of 3 years, Selected Airline Operators (SAO) can issue No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to other airline operators willing to operate on the respective RCS Route .This will ensure there is no supply constraint on RCS Routes.
To provide more flexibility to Selected Airline Operators (SAO), the maximum number of flights with VGF have been increased to 14for Priority Areas. Further, the SAOs can anytime increase the number of flights on RCS Routes to any number. Also, minimum performance specifications will no longer be applicable on Non-RCS Routes.
Helicopter operations under the Scheme are limited to Priority Areas only.
To encourage this, the VGF Caps for helicopters has been increased and 10% of the estimated annual inflows in the RCF will be earmarked for helicopter operations .
Further, all 13 passenger seats for helicopters will be considered as RCS Seats and VGF will be provided accordingly.
The methodology for computing flight duration for helicopters has also been revised based on the recommendation of Expert Committee.
Several changes have been brought in to improve connectivity to priority areas. Priority RCS Route is being defined as an RCS Route in which at least one of the airports – origin or destination – is an RCS Airport located in a Priority Area, and the said RCS Airport satisfies the definition of Underserved Airport or Unserved Airport under the Scheme.
An Underserved Airport for Priority Areas will mean any airport which is not an Unserved Airport and there are no more than fourteen (14) scheduled commercial flight departures per week as per the latest flight schedule published by the DGCA on its website.
Additional category of aircrafts will be permitted for operations on Priority RCS Routes. Proposals for these areas will be prioritized.
There will be Enhanced VGF Caps for operations through Category-1 A and Category-1 Fixed-wing aircraft for Priority RCS Routes.
Also, helicopter operations under the Scheme are being allowed only on Priority RCS Routes.