NEW DELHI: The government’s scheme for enhancing regional air connectivity Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) may soon introduce new modes of transport—seaplanes and amphibian planes—as the civil aviation ministry has decided to conduct feasibility study to explore the possibility of having waterdromes for operating seaplanes. Currently, only regular aircrafts are flying under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) which aims at making air travel affordable as flight fares are capped at a maximum price of Rs 2,500 per hour for 50 per cent seats.
A senior ministry official confirmed the development on Wednesday and said that the government decided to look into the idea of starting seaplanes operations under RCS after some entities approached the government expressing interest for the same. According to sources, two airlines which includes budget airline SpiceJet, sent the ministry a list of around 16 to 20 places that could be utilised as waterdromes. Sources said that the list includes certain locations on the Tehri dam in Uttarakhand, Amby valley in Maharashtra, the coastal belt connecting Gujarat to Kerala and the union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman and Dui.
Seaplanes can land on water bodies, while amphibian planes can operate on land as well as on water bodies. The official explained that a waterdrome can be described as a water body that complies with certain minimum requirements for landing of an aircraft. The official disclosed that the team that would carry out the preliminary study on feasibility of plying seaplanes and amphibian planes would comprise officials from the ministry, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Earlier this month, SpiceJet unveiled plans to purchase more than 100 amphibian planes, estimated to cost US$ 400 million, as the no-frills airline looks to boost regional operations. The budget carrier has entered into an MoU with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings to explore whether the amphibian planes can be used by the airline in a cost effective manner.