Alliance Air starts commercial ops of Do-228

Alliance Air – the only government owned airline now after the sale of Air India, has commercially inducted the Do-228 aircraft in its fleet. Registered VT-KNP, the aircraft has been spotted at air shows and other events over the last two years – leading up to the MoU between HAL and Alliance Air and subsequent induction.

The aircraft will be based at Dibrugarh. Twice a week (Mondays and Fridays), it will operate Dibrugarh – Pasighat – Lilabari and vice versa.

9I401 DIB1030 – 1100IXT

9I401 IXT1120 – 1230IXI

9I402 IXI1250 –  1400IXT

9I402 IXT1420 – 1450 DIB

The inaugural flights took place today in the presence of Hon. Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia.

The airline will operate to Ziro and Tezu soon which will be the first phase of operations.  In the second phase, the airline plans to connect Vijaynagar, Mechuka and Along. The government has been investing heavily in increasing infrastructure in the border areas. A look at each of these airports.

Dibrugarh (or Mohanbari) is one of the remotest airports in the country yet ranked in top 50 by passenger traffic in India. The airport has considerable traffic, thanks partially to it being able to full the Category IIA requirements under the Route Dispersal Guidelines in India. The economy largely moves on Oil and Gas industry, with the Digboi refinery being in the vicinity. The tea estates in the region, add to the commercial importance.

The Dibrugarh airport is undergoing expansion and has presence of Indian Air Force – which also has a frontline air base nearby.

Pasighat is located in Arunachal Pradesh, closer to its border with Assam. The economy is primarily driven by agriculture, tea estates and tourism. Pasighat airport was originally an Advance Landging Ground (ALG) of Indian Air Force and has been subseuqnetly renovated and expanded to accommodate the ATR72 type of aircraft. Alliance air operates the ATR 72-600 to Pasighat from Guwahati via Tezpur. Flybig, operates non-stop, between Guwahati and Pasighat.

Lilabari Airport serves the Lakhimpur region of Assam and was built in early 2000s. Air Deccan and later Kingfisher Airlines operated flights to Lilabari, after which the airfield was defunct. Alliance Air connects Lilabari to Kolkata and the new flights will add to connectivity.

Tezu located in Arunachal Pradesh has been upgraded to handle the ATR 72 type aircraft. Primary economy driver is agriculture, and the town has sizable Tibetan community. Flybig currently operates to Tezu.

Ziro has been in the news for a long time for the ALG to be extended to accommodate aircraft. Vayudoot has operated flights to Ziro, shows online references. This will be the return of Do-228 to Ziro. The town is popular tourist hot spot and hosts the Ziro festival.

Mekchuka is one of the ALGs of Indian air force. The town is a gateway for tourism activates and important center for the armed forces due to proximity to the Chinese border.

The aircraft

The HAL – Kanpur produced Do-228 is a 17-seater aircraft with one lavatory. 16 out of 17 seats have a window, while in the last row – there is a middle seat, which looks down the aisle!

While the aircraft is non-pressurized but capable of day and night operations, most airfield in the Northeast are not capable of night operations. Early sunsets also mean that there is limited operating window

The Dornier first flew in 1981 and has been the backbone of Indian Armed Forces for a while. In 2002, RUAG Holding – a Swiss company, took rights of Dornier including those of Do228. The Do228NG has EASA certification, but little has moved in terms of production or finding customers.

Network Thoughts

Even with subsidy, smaller carriers and aircraft have suffered due to higher operating cost. The routes which are currently part of the plan are thin routes where a 42 or a 70-seater aircraft does little justice. Airlines have been wary of commuter aircraft due to the costs associated.

Time will tell how the Do-228 performs for Alliance Air. As a country, it is a shame that we have to go back to investing in air infrastructure at airfields which had seen service from Vayudoot a few decades ago.

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