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Mesco inducted first Mi-172 helicopter in late 1994

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Aug. 11

THE Russian Mi-172 helicopter, which crashed on Monday at Bombay High killing several ONGC officials, belonged to Mesco Airlines Ltd (MAL), part of the Mesco group of companies.

MAL, incorporated in August 1991, commenced operations with agro spraying with a Hiller helicopter.

However, realising the need for a 20 to 26-seat passenger helicopter for mountainous and offshore regions, MAL identified the 30-seater Mi-172 helicopter.

The Mi-172 has a normal take-off weight of about 11,000 kg and a cruise speed of 230 km per hour.

The company's first Mi-172 with flotation gear was available in late 1994 and was immediately inducted for operations with ONGC.

However, MAL is not the only civilian operator of the Mi-172 helicopter.

Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL) also has three Mi-172s, one of which is in operation with ONGC.

MAL is said to have a wide range of copters ranging from the 30-seater Mi-172 to the French Ecureuil, which can seat five passengers, and the Observer, which can seat a maximum of 12 passengers.

The rates of chartering the various machines also vary — from Rs 1,35,000 per hour for the Mi-172 to Rs 52,000 per hour for the Ecureuil.

Besides, those chartering the machines also have to pay a 15 per cent inland air travel tax (IATT), if applicable, apart from the passenger service fee (PSF), which is based on actuals.

Though the Government withdrew MAL's operating permit for about a year — which the company claims was illegally withdrawn — the airline claims to have been chosen, despite stiff competition, to continue flying for the Himachal Pradesh Government since 1996.

The contract was extended for a further two years from August this year.

Similarly, one Ecureuil helicopter is on lease to the Orissa Government.

MAL is a member of the US-based Helicopter Association International and was presented with its Flight Safety award in 1995.

Meanwhile, PHHL, while terming the incident at Mumbai as unfortunate, said that it maintains the highest standards of safety.

"We have always taken and will continue to take all precautions in the running of our aircraft. We have always followed and continue in the future to do all the checks and safety precautions which are laid down," the PHHL's Chairman and Managing Director, Mr Nagar V. Sridhar, told Business Line.

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