60th birthday present: A helicopter joyride over Mumbai
Pawan Hans, along with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), began their helicopter joyrides over Mumbai from Juhu aerodrome yesterday. While the operations seemed doubtful in the morning due to poor visibility, the rides commenced later in the afternoon. There was a delay even in the rescheduled flights. The flight operations, which were supposed to commence at 3 pm, took off at 3.29 pm and went on till 4.30 pm. The flights had five passengers and two pilots on board.
Pawan Hans helicopters at the Juhu aerodrome. Pics/Nimesh Dave
A total of 60 passengers were booked for the first two days. Twenty-five passengers flew on Thursday while the rest will fly today. Speaking on this occasion, Paraag Jaiin Nainuttia, MTDC managing director said, “This has been a dream project for us at MTDC and Pawan Hans, and to see it finally coming alive is a delightful achievement. We are positive that the introduction of the heli-tours will elevate the overall travel experience for tourists visiting Maharashtra and Mumbai.”
Maharashtra Chief Secretary, Swadheen Kshatriya, in the presence of Valsa Nair Singh, secretary of tourism and cultural affairs, inaugurated the heli-tours — a first for Pawan Hans and MTDC within Mumbai. The 5+2 (five passengers and two pilots) helicopters will now take off from the Juhu aerodrome every day for a total of 10 minutes per flight and will cover north and south Mumbai (up to Mahim), depending on the runway used at Juhu. There has to be a minimum of four bookings per flight for take-off. While infants below two years are not being charged, the cost of each ride is Rs 3,200 per person.
‘One of my best birthdays’
Sarita Aswani, who was flying for the first time, was not only amazed but also called it one of her best birthdays. The father-daughter duo that decided to make Sarita’s birthday special had booked the first helicopter and had brought their maid along with them.
First-time flier Sarita Aswani celebrated her 60th birthday by going on the joyride with her family
“We wanted to make mummy’s 60th birthday special as she has just become a senior citizen,” said Sanjana, Sarita’s daughter, explaining that it was the first helicopter ride for both her parents. The Aswanis landed at the aerodrome at 3.40 pm. Rukmini Chavan, their maid, who was seeing an airport for the first time, termed it to be “one of the best things” she has experienced till date.
While Sarita felt that the sealink was great to see from the air, her husband Kishin said that the entire ride was enjoyable. He termed it a “once in a lifetime experience.” He added, “It was a different feeling to see things you visit almost daily from mid-air.”
‘The delay ruined our excitement’
While all these passengers seemed satisfied with their joyrides, the Binanis had a bitter experience. Kamal and Manisha Binani surprised their son by gifting him a joyride.
The Binani family had to wait two hours for the 10-minute joyride
But they were dismayed when Kamal had to travel from Andheri to the MTDC main office for the bookings on Thursday morning. The family that had reached the aerodrome at 2.30 pm had to wait for two hours for the 10-minute ride.
Naman, a 19-year-old studying at NMIMS said, “This the first time I will be experiencing a chopper ride. I was very excited at the start, but the tremendous delay has ruined my excitement. The reason for us being delayed was because there were just three of us to fly, and all five seats had to be filled.” The family was last to take off for the ride at 4.30 pm.
Family of 16 ferried in four rides
The second family to enjoy the ride had come for a reunion to Mumbai. The family of 16 were flown in four different rides. A family member, Runki Anand, who had travelled to Mumbai from Punjab, said that the ride was “her son’s wish that later became the family’s fun ride.”