The seaplane project envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2017 Gujarat elections is set to resume in a few months, more than a year after being suspended.
The development comes just in time for the state assembly polls, scheduled to be held around the end of this year.
“There is no deadline pressure. We want to ensure that everything is in place before the services resume. If all goes as per plan, we aim to resume the seaplane services in the next one or two months,” said Captain Ajay Chauhan, director of civil aviation, Gujarat.
The services were halted in April 2021 after SpiceJet’s subsidiary SpiceShuttle pulled out due to some operational difficulties amid the Covid-19 pandemic. During its run, 276 seaplanes operated to ferry 2,192 passengers, including boarding 1,217 from Ahmedabad and 975 from Kevadiya. The ticket prices were capped at ₹5,000 for one-way travel.
“There have been challenges and there have been some very deep learnings. Apart from issues such as maintenance and operations, there were also security aspects that were to be looked into. We have made very good progress and overcome the challenges,” Chauhan said.
“The aircraft used for relaunch will be Indian registered, so there is no need of daily clearances from the DGCA. Also, the new plane has a carrying capacity of nine people and is amphibious unlike the earlier one. Earlier, the operator had to go to Maldives for maintenance or repair purposes, but now it can be done at GUJSAIL’s MRO facility in Ahmedabad,” Chauhan said.
Sixteen water aerodromes have been proposed in India as part of the Sagarmala project, under the Union port and shipping ministry, and GUJSAIL aims to develop seaplane services with 19-seater
PM Modi inaugurated the services by travelling from Kevadia, where the Statue of Unity is located, to Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad on October 31, 2020.