The civil aviation ministry is expected to soon come out with the next phase of its flagship regional air connectivity scheme UDAN 5.1 to award routes in the northeast and hilly regions that will be serviced exclusively via choppers.

“The scheme will promote connectivity through the use of both single and double engine choppers. The quantum of VGF (viability funding gap), the number of routes and helipads in the scheme are being finalized,” officials said.

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To enhance regional air connectivity, the scheme provides VGF to operators that have been selected via a bidding process to operate flights on under-served or unserved routes.

The new scheme will promote chopper usage and grow the existing number of helicopters in India. At present, there are only around 280 civilian choppers in India which are used in various sectors.

Currently, the government has bid invites for regional routes under the scheme’s fifth phase.

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The fifth phase has introduced new equipment types such as ‘category 2’ (20–80 seats) and ‘category 3’ (more than 80 seats) aircraft operations.

Furthermore, the earlier stage length cap of 600 km has been waived off.

The 10-year-duration scheme was launched in October 2016, as part of the National Civil Aviation Policy unveiled that year.

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