Bengaluru: IT capital Bengaluru became the first city in the country – mimicking Sao Paulo in Brazil – to have a HeliTaxi on Monday when a privately owned helicopter service took to the skies, delivering its first three passengers to Kempegowda International Airport from Electronic City in 15 minutes, which otherwise would have taken nearly two hours by road.

The first helitaxi, a Bell 407 helicopter, with three passengers on board, lifted off at 3.35 pm from a Thumby Aviation helipad in Electronic City to KIA on Monday.

Group Captain (retired) K N G Nair, chairman and managing director of Kerala-based Thumby Aviation – named for a butterfly – said: “While our first helicopter started its service from 6.30 am, that was promotional. The maiden heli-taxi started from Electronic City to KIAL on Monday afternoon.”

Bookings can be made by downloading the Thumby mobile app (Heli Taxii) where seats can be booked online.
Seats can also be booked on the spot at the company’s counter at KIA and at Thumby’s facility at Electronic City.

Passengers can avail of the company’s heliport facility within the international airport, which is just about a kilometer away from KIA. Passengers are picked from the airport and dropped back and the charge for this is included in the heli taxi ticket.

BBMP looks to skies to beat traffic woes Why complain about potholes or argue about flyovers when you can fly? The BBMP, which has taken to a somewhat ostentatious route to proving its efficiency, has flagged off a privately-owned heli-taxi service in the city. The Palike earmarked Rs 8 crore in the 2018-19 budget towards constructing helipads in each zone for “air ambulances” and to facilitate the movement of VIPS. This was despite criticism that the funds could be better utilised for other areas of public infrastructure and Bengaluru now has the distinction of being only the second city in the world to have helicopters used as taxis. Three passengers made it to KIA from Electronics City in 15 minutes on the service’s maiden journey, instead of two hours by road.

The company has two facilities – within the international airport, where a heliport is set up, which is just about a kilometer away from KIA. Passengers are picked from airport and dropped back and the charge for this is included in the heli taxi ticket.

Group Captain (retired) K.N.G. Nair, chairman and managing director of Kerala-based Thumby Aviation says that the launch is only the inaugural step in the effort to provide affordable heli-taxi services. “We are gearing up to engage nearly 93 existing helipads in the city including ones at hotels like ITC Gardenia and Crowne Plaza.”

The company also offers individual charters to locations like Coorg, Mangalore, Mysore and Wayanad and are considering an air-ambulance service. The company did not wish to reveal details of the bookings on Monday but said later that there have been queries from potential customers.

Air Ambulances next in line? The BBMP earmarked Rs 5 crores for the constructions of helipads in all of its eight zones to provide “air ambulance services” and to facilitate the movement of VIPs. Thumby Aviations has said it is up to this task too.

Captain Nair praised the BBMP’s proposal, calling it a revolution in emergency health care. “Getting assistance during the golden hour is crucial to saving lives.”

Helicopters used as ambulances can be equipped with ICU-like facilities including a ventilator, oxygen cylinders and a dedicated medical team, Nair added.

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