(Representational Image)  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
New Delhi: VIPs getting to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, Ooty, from the Indian Air Force base in Sulur have a difficult choice: they can spend over two hours getting there by road or flying there by chopper, braving the frequently disorienting cloud cover. Bad weather was one reason for the helicopter crash in December last year killing General Bipin Rawat, the chief of defence staff (CDS). Now, VIPs will have an option: There is a proposal to build a helipad at the foot of the Nilgiri Hills. This would ensure that a chopper ride over the Nilgiris, where the weather is often uncertain, is avoided.
This helipad would be at METTUPALAYAM, just where the Nilgiri Hills begin, and from there, the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington, Ooty, where the CDS, his wife and his staff officers and security men were going, is only 45 minutes by car. Driving from Sulur, the closest Indian Air Force base takes over two hours, which is why the chopper ride becomes necessary. Once the helicopter base is ready, VIPs will be able to fly in a chopper up to Mettupalayam and then, drive to Wellington. That will save VIPs not only time but a helicopter ride to Wellington through weather that can suddenly become difficult, even treacherous. Poor weather led to the crash of the MI-15 in which General Rawat and his team were travelling.
The helipad can be dual-use and maintained by the Tamil Nadu government, if necessary. And anyone who needs to get to the Staff College or nearby areas can get off there and then, drive over. The Staff College has lots of visits by dignitaries, including the political leadership, top officials from the three services and even foreign dignitaries.
Once the helipad is built, there will be fewer worries about safe flights over the Nilgiris.