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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Three days after launch, seaplane service suspended for ‘routine maintenance’

SpiceJet has wet-leased a 18-seater Twin Otter 300 seaplane from Maldivian Aero, the national airline of Maldives.

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Updated: November 5, 2020 1:47:31 pm
SpiceJet, Sabarmati seaplane service, Statue of Unity, prime minister narendra modi, Kevadia, gujarat sea plane services suspendedPM Narendra Modi had inagurated the first seaplane service in the country (Express photo by Bhupendra Rana)

Three days after beginning commercial operations, the seaplane service between Statue of Unity and Ahmedabad was suspended on Wednesday for a “routine maintenance” of the aircraft.

SpiceJet has wet-leased a 18-seater Twin Otter 300 seaplane from Maldivian Aero, the national airline of Maldives. A wet lease is an agreement between two airlines, where the lessor agrees to provide an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance to the lessee.

“The aircraft will undergo routine maintenance for two days. There will be no seaplane operations on Wednesday and Thursday,” said an official of SpiceJet who did not wish to be identified. The aircraft is expected to be back in operation on November 6.

The aircraft, which is being operated by Maldivian crew, can accomodate two pilots, one attendant and 15 passengers. It took off from Male, Maldives, before October 25 and landed on Ahmedabad on October 27, 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the seaplane service on October 31. The seaplane is 49 years old. As part of the lease agreement, “one set of crew and engineers with back up” have come with the seaplane.

“It has been flying continously for the past one week and hence some maintainance was needed,” the official added. SpiceJet has planned four flights on the route between Sabarmati Riverfront and Statue of Unity. However, only two flights were being operated daily (11 am and 2.30 pm) from the riverfront since November 1.

“The Twin Otter 300 is a small turboprop aircraft. These aircraft need more maintenance than bigger jets. Since the operations have just begun, maintenance is being done during the daytime… The aircraft is fitted with remarkably efficient Twin Turboprop Pratt & Whitney PT6A-27 engines, known for their reliability. The aircraft has an incredible accident-free history,” SpiceJet stated in response to a questionnaire mailed to them regarding the aircraft’s maintainance.

“The seaplane chosen by SpiceJet is one of the safest and most widely used aircraft the world over and in Maldives. The aircraft has been serviced at regular intervals and is in top class condition,” the airline stated.

The seaplane is docked at jetty at the water aerodrome in Sabarmati Riverfront, where the maintainance work will be undertaken. “As per the lease agreement, maintainance is the responsibility of the Maldivian firm,” the SpiceJet official added.

Despite the break in operations, inquiries continued to pour at the booking window of SpiceJet at the Sabarmati riverfront water aerodrome. PK Gohil, a resident of Ambawadi who came to inquire about the seaplane bookings, said,

“I was not able to place a booking request on the Spice Shuttle website and so I visited the water aerodrome in person. Seven members of my family were planning to visit SoU before Diwali and I was told that the seaplane is under maintenance and the next available date was November 7. They asked me to place my booking request online.”
Gohil and his family is looking to travel one way to SoU. “We will ask our driver to pick us from SoU in our car. The lady at the booking window told me that the tickets will be priced differently and it will cost us on an average Rs 2,500 per person for a one-way ticket,” he added.

During three days of operations, an estimated 100-odd persons have already flown the sea plane between the two locations in Gujarat. SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh said that the airline was flooded with booking requests and on the first day, 3,000 booking requests were made through the website.

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