Would-be Indian regional airline Fly91 (IC, Goa Dabolim) has moved a step closer to launching after the country's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a no objection certificate (NOC) earlier this week. The start-up's promoters intend to file their air operator's certificate (AOC) application by mid-May and have the start-up in the air by 4Q 2023.

As previously reported by ch-aviation, Fly91 is a joint venture between Indian airline executive Manoj Chacko and Mumbai-based private equity firm Convergent Finance. Chacko is best known as the former Executive Vice President (Commercial) of now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines (Mumbai International), while Convergent Finance Managing Director Harsha Raghavan represents the private equity entity. Convergent is investing INR2 billion Indian rupees (USD24.5 million) into the startup carrier. Raghavan will become the chairman of the Fly91 board while Chacko takes on the CEO's role.

"Securing the NOC is an important milestone, and we are happy about it. But it is like reaching the base camp of Mount Everest, and now the real climb will begin," Chacko told India's Business Standard. Fly91 plans to target India's tier two and three cities from its Goa base using ATR72-600s. He says he wants to secure two aircraft initially and says that talks with lessors and OEMs are in "advanced stages." After 12 months of operation, Chacko hopes to have six ATRs in the air, and the longer-term plan is to double that number within five years. While there is no firm word on the first routes, Chacko says Fly91 will focus on 45 - 90 minute underserved sectors in India's north and west and be a lean, efficient, and basic no-frills operator.

“It is a very clear opportunity that I see," said Chacko. "India is growing in smaller cities. We are building an airline in such a way that we want to be the last mile carrier." A key plank in the business strategy is participating in and benefitting from the Indian government's Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) scheme, a regional airport development program and part of India's Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) which upgrades under-serviced air routes.