Mumbai: Maritime Energy Heli Air, which pioneered the launch of seaplane services last year, would commence its operations in Maharashtra and Kerala next month. The company said on Thursday that it has got the go-ahead from Maharashtra's costal zone management authority to begin seaplane services from the city and would start operations from next month.
"We will soon officially sign an agreement with the Kerela Tourism Corporation. We plan to start operations in Kerala and Maharashtra simultaneously, may be by the end of December," Mehair chief executive Siddharth Verma said. Mehair had signed an agreement with Maharashtra last year and has been waiting for regulatory clearances and still needs a green signal from the Navy to go ahead.
The city-based company has also entered into agreements with Goa and Andhra to launch similar services. "There are a number of water bodies, apart from the sea, like the lakes, backwaters and dams, on which seaplanes can land and which allow easy access to numerous tourist spots," he said without indicating when the operations will begin in these states.
Mehair pioneered the launch of the country's first seaplane operation in the Andman Nicobar Islands in January 2011. A seaplane is a powered fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing (alighting) on water. In Maharashtra, the company plans to launch its services in two phases, he said, adding, "initially we plan to start the serives to Lonavala, Shirdi, Bhandardara, Murud, Shani Shinganapur and Lavasa that are more frequented by tourists."
"These operations will connect Mumbai with almost any part of the interior and coastal areas of the state even if there are no airports there. This is a novel idea and will add new dimension to tourism," Verma said, adding the Mumbai services will begin from the Juhu aerodrome and pick up passengers from Girgaum Chowpatty near Nariman Point or Bhau Cha Dhakka (Ferry Wharf) in the southern tip of the city.
According to the proposal submitted for clearance, the company plans to launch its services to Jangira Murud, Harihareshswar, Ganpati Pule in Raigad district, Tarkarli in Sindhudurg district while in Kerala, it plans to initially start the services to the Vembanad and Ashtamudi lakes. "This will help us connect Kochi in central Kerala with Thiruvananthapuram in the southern tip," he said.
In Maharashtra, the company plans to initially launch the services daily. Later, depending on the response, the company will decide the future strategy, he said. Mehair, which is expected to spend around Rs 100 crore for both these projects, plans to deploy Cessna 2008 amphibian aircraft which is a nine-seater plane equipped with amphibian floats. These floats are hollow and attached to the wheels which enable the aircraft to operate from water as well as from the runway in the course of the same flight. Besides the state tourism corporations, the company is also tying up with hotels, resorts and even corporate houses, he said.
"Apart from tourists, we are also targeting commuters who have to spend hours to reach the island city of Mumbai from the suburbs. We are planning to launch services for them as well, which will help reduce their commuting time," Verma said.