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General-automatics

Seaplanes now a reality in India

Mumbai. Seaplanes have been commonplace the world over but in India, their introduction has just begun.

Jal Hans, the first Indian seaplane service was launched here by Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel Dec 27 to ensure connectivity with popular coastal and island destinations, both for tourism and security requirements.

Appropriately, the Government has allowed 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in seaplane services. Jal Hans though is a venture of Pwan Hans, the country’s first helicopter service that is extensively being used for servicing offshore oil rigs, VIP duties and tourism.

The Jal Hans service initially is being operated by a Cessna Caravan 208 A amphibian aircraft. It has the modern navigation features of any large jet and can travel up to 200 km in an hour. It can land on calm waters as also on ground using the wheels configuration. It has a capacity of ten seats which includes eight passengers, a pilot and a navigator.

Patel said that the Government would encourage Jal Hans to expand, and also invite others to set up similar ventures.

It may be noted that the authorities have become acutely aware of ensuring connectivity and surveillance of coastal areas after the 26/11 attack by Pakistani terrorists on Mumbai in 2008. From Maritime Surveillance aircraft to combat patrol and sea plane operations, the Government wants to ensure that there is no gap anywhere in and over the Indian waters for infiltration by terrorists and state-run saboteurs of hostile countries.

Jal Hans is to be used extensively for connectivity in the Andaman & Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal to boost tourism. There is a 50:50 loss/profit arrangement between Pawan Hans and Andaman and Nicobar Administration. The seaplane service will connect Port Blair with the picturesque Havelock and other islands in the North Andamans to promote tourism.

Dr S N A Zaidi, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, observed at the launch: “The service will be operationalized in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as per a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Andaman and Nicobar Administration and Pawan Hans Helicopters.” He added that facilities for ferrying passengers from the shore to the pontoons; sanitization of the waterdrome before take- off and landing; speed boats with 10-passenger capacity, a standby inflatable Gemini boat; and one floating jetty (pontoon) will be provided at each location.

Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Lt Gen (Retd) Bhopinder Singh said, ”We will examine the commercial and operational viability of seaplanes in these islands, and if successful, we will bring more such planes to strengthen inter-island connectivity.”

Andaman Information and Publicity Department Secretary Abrahum Varickamackkal added, ”The sea plane will break the myth of remoteness and isolation of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.”

Jal Hans will later extend the service to Goa and Lakshadweep islands in the Arabian Sea.

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