City-based private operator Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt Ltd (Mehair), in association with MTDC, on Monday launched maiden seaplane service to Lonavala, marking its first operation from the mainland.
The first commercial seaplane flight with nine passengers onboard a Cessna 208A aircraft, took off at around 12 noon from the Juhu aerodrome for Pawana dam in Lonavala.
“We have received tremendous response from the customers. As a matter-of-fact, both the daily flights and weekly flights that we will operate have seen full bookings till September 15,” Mehair co-founder and director Siddharth Verma said after the launch.
The company also plans to set up a training facility for seaplane pilots to meet the demand.
“Right now there are very few pilots to operate a seaplane. We are planning to establish a conversion school (training academy) for pilots, which will train commercial pilot licence (CPL) holders for these type of aircraft and a full-fledged conversion school is aimed at tiding over this problem,” Verma said.
He said the training institute will come up at the proposed maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, the site for which is being identified.
Mehair pioneered the launch of seaplanes operations in the country in January 2011 when it rolled out services in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The company has announced special promotional fares of Rs 2,999 per person for a 25-minute one way journey, which will remain in effect till September 15, he said, adding, “we will revise fares post mid-September but have not yet decided the quantum of hike.”
The company, which has so far invested Rs 15 crore including in aircraft acquisition, will have five seaplanes by December this year.
“At present, we have a four-seater Cessna 206 (leased one) and nine-seater Cessna 208A aircraft which is owned by us. We are getting one more Cessna 208A next month, which will be followed by acquisition of two more similar planes by December,” he said.
Mehair is now looking at expanding the seaplane operations in the state further, Verma said.
“Services to Dhoom, Mula and Gangapur dams are also in the offing. While the DGCA approval for Mula dam operations is already in place, the regulator’s nod for the remaining two places is also expected shortly,” Verma said.
The amphibian planes will eventually connect Mumbai with multiple tourist destinations in the state, adjacent to four suitable water bodies even though there are no runways at these destinations.