–It is a cost worth paying for security, expert says
LAHORE: The mainstream and social media have been abuzz with calculations about the cost incurred by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s commute from his home in Bani Gala to his office after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had claimed that the helicopter was not particularly expensive and cost somewhere around Rs 50-55/kilometer.
However, according to multiple helicopter and aviation experts, the said figure is nowhere near the actual cost that the helicopter incurs.
According to details, the copter that is in the use of the premier is the Leonardo AW 139, which is a twin-engine chopper that was acquired by the Pakistani government for $12 million in 2013.
The information minister’s claim has been that the 15-kilometer flight which takes three minutes does not cost more than an entire cavalcade and helps avoid disturbing other commuters, and this in line with the premier’s austerity drive.
However, as aviation expert and former senior PIA engineer Ali Malik Tariq explained to Pakistan Today, the time and cost that any helicopter takes for such a journey is much more than what the government is trying to portray.
“The 3-minute figure does not make sense because any helicopter takes a certain amount of time to reach the take-off point. And this is probably the part which consumes the most fuel.”
“Although average cruise fuel consumption is about 5-6 litres per Nautical Mile (NM), it uses a minimum of 40 litres to achieve cruise altitude of 12,000 feet and approximately 50 litres to reach 15,000 feet which would be recommended safe height for security purposes,” he explained.
“The average cost per NM would be in the range of over $250-350 per minute taking into account the total cost incurred.”
This would mean that a three-minute copter ride could cost up to Rs12,000. In comparison, at Fawad Chaudhry’s claimed rate of Rs 50-55 per kilometer, a to and fro ride would cost only around Rs 2,000.
While the difference is clearly a big one, this is still not taking into consideration the time and fuel spent on the helicopter’s take off and initial warming up.
To achieve the requisite flying height of 15,000 feet, the helicopter would need to burn at least 50 liters as per the instructions of the aircraft manufacturers. This would just be the helicopter taking off into the air and would not include the fuel spent in the time given for it to pick up power while it is grounded. Similarly, a certain amount of time also has to be given after the chopper has landed.
‘COST WORTH PAYING FOR SECURITY’:
Major (r) M Zaheer, another aviation expert, corroborated the claim. He said that the distance from Bani Gala to the PM’s office takes 7 minutes to cover, and that the take-off time included rounds it off to at least an hour of helicopter usage.
He said, “The total measurement is taken from the moment the copter is turned on to the moment it lands and is shut off, not just the flying time.”
“The per hour cost is thus somewhere around Rs 370000 for the prime minister’s travel.”
“This is a price worth paying for security,” he said regarding the AW 139, adding that it is used in many other countries as well.
The information minister should not make such uninformed statements, especially since he has no background in aviation, the experts suggested.