Kochi: In a 'big boost' to Kerala Tourism, the first seaplane, which would commence service from Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam to Punnamada lake in Alapuzha on June 2, landed here to a warm welcome. The project, to be formally launched by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, aims at connecting various backwater destinations in the state. The Seaplane was given a 'water salute' as it touched down at the Kochi International airport at nearby Nedumbassery.
Tourism minister AP Anil Kumar accompanied by State Planning Board Vice Chairman KM Chandrasekhar and Tourism Secretary Suman Billa, received the aircraft piloted by Captain Michael Fabry.
The six-seater Cessna 206 H amphibian aircraft, capable of flying five hours at a stretch, was welcomed at the airport's aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) hanger with a water salute by two tankers of the CIAL fire force.
Allaying apprehensions that the operation of the seaplane would affect fishing operations and fishery resources, Anil Kumar told reporters that once the service becomes operational all the concerns would disappear.
Chandrasekhar said the introduction of the seaplane in Kerala marked a new chapter in the country's civil aviation sector and it would soon encourage other coastal states to follow suit. Suman Billa said the service would have the four airports of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode and Mangalore as base stations and will connect key backwater tourism destinations of Ashtamudi in Kollam, Punnamada in Alappuzha and Bekal in Kasaragod districts.
Bengaluru-based Kairali Aviation will run the maiden service of the seaplane project which is based on a Zero Subsidy - Open Sky Policy. Besides Kairali Aviation, Kerala Tourism has shortlisted four other companies for operating the seaplane services.
"Once the other agencies begin operations, it will give ample scope for competition in this sector. We expect it to be a very profitable activity, going by the growing number of domestic and overseas tourists reaching the state every year," Billa said.