India’s maiden seaplane service is likely to take off from Sabarmati riverfront to the Statue of Unity on October 31, if all goes as per plans, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.
No-frills carrier SpiceJet is in the process of procuring a seaplane for the venture from the Maldives which is expected to arrive on October 26 for the first regular service on the about 205 km stretch.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier used a seaplane flight from the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad.
“The first seaplane service in the country is likely to be launched on October 31 from Sabarmati riverfront to Statue of Unity which will be a new beginning for the country…Infrastructure is ready for it on both sides including the floating jetty,” the shipping minister told PTI.
The minister said SpiceJet is in the process of procuring a seaplane from the Maldives which is likely to land on October 26.
He said benefits will be provided to the air carrier under the government’s Udan scheme.
“Once launched this will give a major boost to tourism,” the minister said and added that this will be one of its kind service with a 19-seater plane that can accommodate 12 passengers.
The Gujarat government in July this year had cleared a proposal to enter into a tri-party agreement with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the construction of four water aerodromes under the regional connectivity scheme for seaplane service.
A water aerodrome or seaplane base is an area of open water used by seaplanes, float-planes and amphibious aircraft for landing and taking off.
The water aerodrome was planned at the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad, Sardar Sarovar dam at Kevadia in Narmada district, Shetrunji dam at Palitana in Bhavnagar district and Dhaori dam in Mehsana district.
Mandaviya had reviewed seaplane projects in India recently.
Sabarmati and Sardar Sarovar — Statue of Unity route are included in the 16 seaplane routes identified in the country and hydrographic surveys of this route had been completed, as per the government.
Mandaviya said that post the launch of this service, regular services are planned on various routes including Guwahati, Andaman & Nicobar and the Yamuna to Tupper Dam in Uttarakhand.
Earlier bullish on the growth prospects for seaplanes in India, SpiceJet’s CEO Ajay Singh had said this new mode of transport can boost the country’s tourism sector in a big way as they can convert any pond into an airport and can make any river a runway.
Seaplanes are typically fixed-wing aircraft with a much fewer number of seats and can take off from, and land on, water. While they have been in use since the 19th century, they lagged behind full-fledged aircraft after heavy investments were made in setting up airports in the 20th century but have again been re-emerging on the scene as a niche segment.
Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Minister Nitin Gadkari during his tenure as Shipping Minister has been emphasising the huge growth potential for seaplanes and has been pitching for manufacturing them within the country.