HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Mumbai gets country's first mainland seaplane service

IANS  Mumbai, August 25, 2014
First Published: 19:18 IST(25/8/2014) | Last Updated: 20:00 IST(25/8/2014)

The first seaplane service on mainland India was launched with an aircraft taking off from Juhu Airport and touching down on the waters of the Pawana Dam on Monday.

Pawana Dam is located in Lonavala in Pune district.

The service has been launched by the Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt. Ltd. (MEHAIR) in collaboration with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).

The maiden flight, with nine passengers on board and a flying time of 25 minutes, cost Rs.2,999 per head one way -- with the fare likely to be revised next month.

The service will be extended to other water bodies in the state having tourism or pilgrim centres but lacking air connectivity.

"This is the first step towards covering India with a seaplane network over the next three-five years. It will become a vital cog in the tourism initiative of the state as well as pilgrimage with connections to tourist and pilgrim centres," said MEHAIR co-founder and director Siddharth Verma.

He added the service has received tremendous response and the daily and weekly flights are fully booked till Sep 15.

"The service will boost tourism immensely, and seaplanes will turn vacation destinations into weekend destinations. Besides, the fatigue involved in reaching these destinations would also decrease drastically," said MTDC managing director Jagdish Patil.

The service -- to be operated with Cessna 208 (nine-seater) and Cessna 206 (four-seater) amphibian aircraft -- will slash travel time between the two points, currently serviced by trains, the Mumbai-Pune expressway and the Mumbai-Pune highway.

The company has two aircraft in service and will acquire another Cessna 208 next month, followed by two more similar aircraft by the year-end.

Besides Pawana Dam, MEHAIR is planning services to Mula, Gangapur and Dhoom dams in Pune district, and a training centre for seaplane pilots to meet the requirements of its fleet.

MEHAIR pioneered seaplane services in India in the Andaman and Nicobar islands in January 2011.

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