Everyone at the Mahalaxmi Race Course knows where the helipad is. Reliance operates its chopper from there and industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his wife Nita are frequent travellers. Now, even Hunch Ventures and Blade India’s helicopters, ferrying passengers from Mumbai to Shirdi and Pune fly from here. The joint venture that was to start operations in March finally started a few days ago and currently ferries people from Mumbai to Pune and Shirdi for Rs20,000 one way for one person in its six-seat helicopter.
Blade India has a swanky lounge at the racecourse, where they serve coffee, juices and sandwiches and scan your luggage while you read books on the history of fashion or watch security videos.
On a Thursday morning, a CEO hurried out of the chopper coming from Pune and a New-York based real estate investor got in to get to Shirdi. The rotor started, cutting the wind and the helicopter rose to 700 feet, flying across the racecourse, Bandra-Worli Sea Link, Thane, through the mighty Sahyadris, speckled with several windmills and across fields, throwing open magnificent scenes of rural life of sheep grazing freely and farmers ploughing their fields.
After about 40 minutes, the chopper lands on Blade India’s helipad in Shirdi, cutting short the six-hour distance by road to a mere 40 minutes. “This service will be extremely popular with tourists from Singapore, Sri Lanka and South Africa who especially come to India to visit Shirdi on a two or three-day trip,” says a travel agency employee on the same ride. Blade India also helps you book VVIP darshan at the temple at extra cost. So, you are in and out of Shirdi in less than an hour and back to Mumbai in 40 minutes. “I have tried FlyBlade services in the US and when I heard about it here, I immediately booked it,” says the US-based real-estate investor. “It has been one of the most hassle-free trips to Shirdi.”
For travellers’ convenience, the choppers are equipped with noise cancellation Boss speakers to help cut the rotor noise, and the attached microphone helps you talk to co-passengers and pilot. These can also be connected to smartphones via Bluetooth.
Once back to Mumbai, at around 3 pm, three other passengers are waiting to take the last ride out, from Mumbai to Pune. The chopper rests in the satellite city for the night before taking off the next day in the morning to get to Mumbai.