Mumbai, Aug 21 IANS | 4 months ago

The much-awaited seaplane services connecting Mumbai and Lonavala will be launched Aug 25, officials said Thursday.

The service will be operated jointly by Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt. Ltd (MEHAIR) and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, for which bookings have opened.

The service will utilise Cessna 208 (9-seater) and Cessna 206 (4-seater) amphibian aircraft, and the tariff would be Rs.2,999 per head for a one-way journey, said MEHAIR director Siddharth Verma.

The commercial flights will be operated between Mumbai's Juhu airport and Pawna Dam in Lonavala.

The 100-km Mumbai-Lonavala flight would take around 25-28 minutes, or one-fourth of the time taken by road at present, said MTDC managing director Jagdish Patil.

Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said Maharashtra was the first state in India to have a seaplane service.

"This service will provide ease to tourists and locals who travel to various destinations in the state," Bhujbal said.

Verma said this would be MEHAIR's first step towards covering India with a seaplane network over the next three-five years.

In January 2011, the company pioneered the launch of seaplanes in India in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

MEHAIR's test flights were successfully conducted in December 2013 at the Aamby Valley Lake.

MEHAIR plans to include Mula Dam, close to the pilgrimage centres of Shirdi, Shani-Shingnapur and Trimbakeshwar in Ahmednagar, Mahabaleshwar and other major destinations which have no air connectivity.

The MTDC is also collaborating with the irrigation ministry to identify various lakes, rivers and around 50 dams, as well as other big and small water bodies in remote areas of the state to be connected by seaplanes.

On its part, MEHAIR plans to expand to coastal areas and landlocked states with lakes, rivers or dams for amphibian flight operations.

The MTDC has plans to start a seaplane service linking the suburbs with south Mumbai -- in a mere 5-10 minutes -- but the proposal is awaiting central clearance.

A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off or landing on water without the need of an airstrip. Another category of amphibian aircraft can also take off from and land at regular airfields.

Seaplanes require either a 1-km-long airstrip or a water body which is a km long and at least 10 feet deep.

The seaplanes will fly at between 700-3,500 feet, thus giving a good view of the terrain below, while the MEHAIR pilots would be clad in shorts, to enable them to wade in the water for anchoring the aircraft after landing.

Holding a non-scheduled operator's permit, MEHAIR has acquired a hangar at the Juhu airport from where it would operate the flights as daily charters.

(Posted on 21-08-2014)

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