The first commercial flight of the much-awaited seaplane services will take off for Pawana dam in Lonavala from Mumbai on August 25, Maharashtra Tourism and Public Works Minister Chhagan Bhujbal announced on Thursday.
The services, which have been put off several times in the past, will be launched by the private operator Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt Ltd (Mehair) in association with Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).
“Maharashtra government is pleased to announce the launch of seaplane services for commuters in the state, the first one to have such services in the country’s mainland. These services will provide ease to tourists and locals who travel to various tourist destinations,” Bhujbal said in a release.
The city-based operator pioneered the launch of seaplanes operations in the country in January 2011 when it rolled out services in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
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, the release said, adding the first commercial flight is scheduled to take off on August 25 from Mumbai to Pawana damn in Lonavala.
The fares for these services have been fixed at Rs 2,999 per person for one one way journey. Earlier, Mehair had put off the launch of the maiden services twice in the past.
On the first occasion, it postponed the launch to Aamby Valley with the arrest of Sahara chief Subrata Roy, and second time due to its failure to secure clearance from the state irrigation department.
“It is the first step towards covering India with a seaplane network over the next 3-5 years. I am sure Mumbaikars’ will find the service extremely useful and the service will become a vital cog in the tourism initiative of the state,” Mehair co-founder and director Siddharth Verma said.
Mehair, which already has a four-seater Cessna 206 in its fleet, had recently brought into Mumbai a nine-seater Cessna 208A aircraft, which will be deployed to operate these services.
The company has also plans to launch services to Varasgaon and Gangapur dams in phases. Besides, it also recently received the go-ahead from the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) for undertaking a seaplane operation at Girgaum chowpatty here.