Rafiqul Islam Chowdhury, a leading industrialist of the country, will go to his village home on Eid vacation and has so contacted a helicopter service provider to fly to Bhola from Dhaka.
“Travel by helicopter is much easier and comfortable. Most importantly, it is timesaving as you won't have to remain stuck in traffic jam,” says Rafiqul, giving a hint of how life has become hectic these days and how difficult it is to save time.
Affluent people, mostly business persons, corporate executives, political persons, film and sports stars, foreign buyers and foreign tourists, are now opting for chopper services to avoid the time consuming road transports.
Besides being used in long journeys on different occasions, helicopters are also being used in marriage ceremonies, film shootings, political programs and business purposes.
Amid an expansion of businesses and factories in recent times in the country, owners of big industries are going for helicopters to look after their industrial units and to meet their emergency needs.
In addition, passengers, who can afford, are now availing the posh service on rent.
Helicopter service providers have said that a large portion of their passengers are foreign buyers of readymade garments.
Some helicopter operators provide air-ambulance service for emergency evacuation of critically ill patients from one part of the country to other with on-board doctor and necessary life saving facilities.
The rent ranges between Tk70,000 and Tk170,000 for each hour of flight while the waiting charge is Tk7,000 for each hour depending on the number of seats.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), right now 11 private companies have around 25 helicopters, using them for both personal and commercial purposes.
CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan has told Dhaka Tribune that the number of private helicopter service providers is growing as many entrepreneurs are coming forward.
"We are also increasing our monitoring and surveillance. We take action when anybody misuses license," he assures.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, BRB Air Limited Chairman Md Mozibar Rahman says: "We operate our helicopters for both private and commercial uses. But our business is not yet profitable yet although its use is increasing."
Operators and rent
South Asian Airlines first introduced commercial helicopter services in 1999 with two helicopters. At present, 11 companies commercially operate with about 25 helicopters.
The operators are Square Air Limited, Impress Aviation Limited, Meghna Aviation Limited, BRB Air Limited, Bangla International Airlines Limited, R&R Aviation (Sikder Group), Bashundhara Airways Ltd and Partex Aviation Limited and South Asian Airlines Limited. Akij Group and PHP Group have been providing helicopter services.
Bangladeshi companies operate mainly Bell 407, Bell 429, Euro-copter, Robinson R44, and Robinson R66 model helicopters.
Squadron Leader (retd) Mohammad Mohiuddin, chief engineer of Impress Aviation, has told Dhaka Tribune that private helicopter services are getting popular day by day while the demand soars during Eid holidays but the rent remains the same throughout the year.
The rent depends mainly on the number of seats, he says, informing that most of helicopter providers are based in Dhaka.
"We are committed towards ensuring passengers' safety and are willing to go further to make sure that helicopter journey with us is comfortable and relaxed," he says.
The air charge of a four or five-seated helicopter is Tk70,000-Tk100,000 for each hour of flight while the waiting charge (land) is Tk 5-6,000 for each hour. The charge of a six or seven-seated helicopter is Tk120,000-Tk170,000 per hour. Customers have to pay 15% VAT.
Distance and the time it takes
The travel from Dhaka to Teknaf, covering 210 nautical miles, takes 115 minutes. Dhaka- Thakurgaon travel, covering 170nm, takes 105 minutes while Dhaka-Shylet flight, covering 105nm, takes 65 minutes.
The 105nm Dhaka-Rajshahi travel takes 65 minutes, 70nm Dhaka-Barisal travel takes 45 minutes, 120nm Dhaka-Chittagong travel takes 70 minutes, 170nm Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar travel 95 minutes while 80nm Dhaka-Khulna travel takes 50 minutes.
Round trip rent time, distance and rent rate will be double.