Project fails to take off after protests by fishermen

The State government will hold talks with various trade unions of fishermen again to allay apprehensions raised by the fisherfolk over the seaplane project and start services at the earliest.

The seaplane services have not been able to take off despite their launch from Ashtamudi Lake last Sunday. The protests by fisherfolk inside the waterdrome forced the inaugural flight to return without landing on Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha, giving a jolt to the dream project of the government.

“We have decided to hold a meeting with representatives of the fisher-folk again and are hopeful of allaying their apprehension that the project will affect fishing,” Suman Billa, Secretary, Tourism, told The Hindu here on Tuesday.

Though the authorities have decided to hold the talks at the earliest, the dates are yet to be finalised.

Mr. Billa said the seaplane services would be operated only between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Studies showed that seaplanes did not pollute the water since their engines were not in the water unlike the internal combustion motors of boats. Seaplanes generate noise for only a few seconds and fishing will not be affected.

Aircraft shifted

The five-plus-one-seat Cessna 206 H amphibian aircraft, taken on lease by the Bangalore-based Kairali Aviation from a Dubai-based aviation company for operating the service, has been shifted to the Cochin International Airport. Michael Fabry, a Belgian national, who flew the aircraft to Kochi and piloted the inaugural flight, left for Dubai.

Confirming the shifting of the seaplane, Sasikumar K.R., managing director of Kairali Aviation, said Mr. Fabry had “gone on leave and will return from Dubai after three days.”

Mr. Sasikumar said the company had been getting calls from tourists, especially from outside the State, on knowing of the launch of seaplane services. “It is an encouraging sign, and we are hopeful of commencing the services by mid-June after overcoming the hurdles,” he said.

He said the seaplane fares would be affordable and cheaper than the taxi fares from airports to backwater destinations. The company had placed an order for a nine-seater Cessna 208 amphibian aircraft in the U.S. and it would arrive after the monsoon.

The Cessna 206 H amphibian aircraft uses aviation gas, which has to be imported from Australia.

“We will be taking aviation gas from the Naval Base, Kochi, where it is stored. But the new nine-seater aircraft will fly on aviation turbine fuel,” he said.