Seaplane service to resume after a year of suspension as bids open

After failing to sustain seaplane service, the Gujarat government is likely to restart the service in the coming months. Officials close to the development also said that a nine-seater Cessna aircraft will be dry leased to operate the route.

According to a report by the Hindustan Times, officials from the state aviation department, Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt Ltd (MEHAIR) won the bids on Tuesday, February 2 and is likely to start operations on the Ahmedabad- Kevadia route in the next four months.

“We will approach the Gujarat government to take financial approval first, we will go ahead after it is approved by them. I don’t know about the exact timeline. We will try to do it (recommence operations) as soon as possible but many approvals are needed from regulatory bodies, hence restarting the seaplane operations is subject to the permissions.”

Hareet Shukla, Aviation Secretary, Gujarat

India’s first seaplane service began on October 31, marking the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel. The first flight took off from Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad to the Statue of Unity in Kevadia Colony in the Narmada district on October 31, 2020, but the seaplane flights were suspended in early 2021, just ahead of the second wave of Covid-19.

The 15-seater Twin Otter 300 seaplane was flown back to the Maldives for maintenance in February 2021. Before that, it flew to the Maldives in December as well to undergo statutory checks. SpiceShuttle, a subsidiary of aviation player SpiceJet, operated the route. The Twin Otter 300 seaplane could accommodate up to 19 people including the crew.

The 15-seater Twin Otter 300 seaplane was flown back to the Maldives for maintenance in February 2021. (Image Courtesy – Hotelier Maldives)

Officials from Ahmedabad claimed that the government aims to restart seaplane operations soon. “The flights may begin from June,” an official said.

“A nine-seater Cessna amphibian aircraft will be used to operate the route. Work for resumption of seaplane service is in process,” said an official from the state civil aviation department.

“Aerotrans Services Pvt. Ltd, Ventura AirConnect Ltd and Maritime Energy Heli Airservices Pvt Ltd (MEHAIR) had put in their bids. They were opened on Tuesday, February 1 and MEHAIR was declared to be the winner,” he added. “The letter of intent is yet to be awarded,” the official added.

At least 28 seaplane routes have been awarded until December 2021, under UDAN.

To provide faster and hassle-free travel options in the long, treacherous and hilly regions of the country, the union government announced seaplane routes under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS)- Udey Desh ka Aam Naagarik (UDAN) scheme.

According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and the Ministry of Ports, shipping and waterways, at least 28 seaplane routes have been awarded until December 2021, under UDAN. 14 water aerodromes based in Gujarat, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep are at various stages of development.

(With Inputs from The Hindustan Times)

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