After the much hyped launch of a seaplane service in Kerala by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at Kollam on June 2, not a single trip has taken place till date, citing reasons of heavy monsoon.
The first seaplane was brought to Kerala by Kairali Aviation and it is still anchored at the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL). Another company, Wings Aviation, has also come forward to operate the service but they are yet to get the clearance from the state government, directorate general of Civil Aviation and Cochin Port Trust.
Anil Kumar, managing director, Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Limited, which was entrusted with coordinating the project, said that Kairali Aviation is planning to introduce a bigger plane which can accommodate eight persons. Around four services of various companies will be operational by Onam, he added. “There were apprehensions among the fishermen community about the impact on their livelihood if this project was implemented. The government had constituted a committee to study the impact and they are expected to submit the report in a month”, Anil Kumar said.
However, Wings Aviation is all set to launch the project once the clearances are obtained. Kerala Seaplane Services managing director Umesh Kamath said that two seaplanes with a nine seater capacity have already arrived in Bangalore. “Every day, there are 15 to 20 enquires coming to the company by way of emails and phone calls regarding the seaplane services. The city ride is the most attractive. It is a 15 minute flight above the city at a height of 1,000 metres”, he said.
According to Umesh Kamath the city ride will cost only Rs 3,000 and a nine seater will be profitable. The company will press into operation the two Cessna Caravan 208b seaplanes, he said. The seaplanes will not be brought to Kochi till approvals are received as the expense for maintaining it comes to Rs 18 to 20 lakh a month. He pointed out that the infrastructure development at Bolgatty, such as setting up waterdromes having facilities like floating jetty, passenger frisking, etc is yet to be completed.
On the infrastructure, Anil Kumar said that Ashtamudi and Punnamada will be completed on the first phase. Bolgatty and Bekal will be in the next phase, which is also expected to be completed by the end of this year. He said out that another company, to be floated by Malayali pilots, has also expressed interest in operating seaplane services. Kumarakom and Munnar too will be included in the operational circuits, he said. The project concept was to provide an additional layer of transportation by offering last mile connectivity by air to the renowned destinations.