The seaplane service, the State tourism department’s prestigious project linking airports and waterways that is slated to take-off on June 2, is likely to be expanded with more water-dromes set up and amphibian aircraft roped in by year end.
The inaugural service will be operated using the six-seater Cessna 206 amphibian aircraft leased by Kairali Aviation from a Dubai-based aviation company. The aircraft was brought to the Kochi airport for the customary water cannon salute on Thursday.
Tourism Secretary Suman Billa said seven to eight aircraft were likely to be available for operations by the end of the year. Ten-seater and 20-seater aircraft are likely to join the fleet.
Though Mr. Billa said four more water-dromes were being planned in the State, he declined to reveal where they would come up. “The project will follow a ‘zero subsidy open sky policy’. The government’s role will be that of the facilitator; private operators with aircraft and licence to operate will be free to join the service. The operations will be market-driven depending on the demand and supply theory,” Mr. Billa said.
The issues posed in connection with the project and water-dromes had been addressed in the detailed project report, which was placed in the public domain few months ago. Landing and take-offs from water-dromes would be restricted to daytime, he said.
The areas identified to set up water-dromes were those without fishing activities and boat services. As the propeller of the seaplane was suspended in air, the turbulence it caused on the water would be less than that of a speed boat. There would be very little sound during landing whereas the sound of take-off would be similar to that of operating a chainsaw.
“More importantly, re-fuelling and maintenance are not allowed on water; this rules out the prospect of fuel or oil spill,” Mr. Billa said.