The Dubai-based aviation company, which had leased the aircraft to the Bangalore-based Kairali Aviation, handed over the aircraft to Maritime Energy Heli AIR Services Pvt. Ltd .

The hopes of commencing seaplane services have been dashed with the Cessna 206 H amphibian aircraft, grounded at the Cochin international airport at Nedumbaserry since June 3 due to opposition from the fisherfolk against the project, being flown to Mumbai.

As uncertainty prevailed over the services, the Dubai-based aviation company, which had leased the aircraft to the Bangalore-based Kairali Aviation, handed over the aircraft to Maritime Energy Heli AIR Services Pvt. Ltd .

Confirming the development, Sasikumar K.R, managing director of Kairali Aviation, said there was no other way as he had lost Rs.1.6 crore for retaining the pilot and paying the lease and parking fee.

“Even after using anti-rust spray, the aircraft was rusting at the Nedumbaserry airport. We had to pay a substantial amount to get the rust removed from the engine and fly it to Mumbai as directed by the Dubai-based company,” he said.

Pilot leaves

Michael Fabry, from Belgium, who flew the aircraft from Dubai to Kochi and piloted the inaugural flight from Ashtamudi Lake, had also left the State.

With the operator returning the aircraft, questions have been raised over the ambitious project of Kerala Tourism, for which Rs.7.28 crore from the exchequer had been spent on infrastructure, inauguration, and publicity.

Protests by the fisherfolk inside the ‘waterdrome’ forced the inaugural flight to return without landing on Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha.

A committee set up by the State to study the concerns raised by the fisherfolk, including the impact on fishing, had decided to conduct a test flight to know the impact caused on landing and takeoff by the aircraft.

The committee comprises University of Fisheries Vice-Chancellor Madhusoodana Kurup, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute representative Padmakumar, Secretary, Tourism, Suman Billa, and Managing Director of the nodal agency Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Limited (KTIL) S. Anilkumar.

“The mandatory clearance of the Director General of Civil Aviation is needed for the test flight. We hope to commence the services during the peak tourism season,” Mr. Billa said. But the question of availability of aircraft for the test flight remains. Apart from Kairali Aviation, two operators shortlisted by the KTIL are waiting to commence services.

Mr. Sasikumar said a nine-seater Cessna 208 amphibious aircraft ordered by the company was ready in the U.S. and could be flown in any time to the State. “We will bring the aircraft after all the problems are sorted out,” he added.