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Thursday, July 29, 2021

‘Covid, monsoon’ suspend Ahmedabad-Kevadia seaplane service until September

This is the fourth major suspension of the service since its launch on October 31, 2020 -- and also the longest. In absence of the seaplane, the water aerodromes constructed at Sabarmati and Kevadia are vacant.

Written by Aditi Raja | Vadodara |
Updated: June 24, 2021 3:37:38 am
‘Covid, monsoon’ suspend seaplane service until SeptemberThis is the fourth major suspension of the seaplane service since its launch. (File)

The Ahmedabad-Kevadia seaplane service — which was suspended from April 9 onwards owing to second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic — will remain suspended until September as the operator SpiceJet has decided to stay grounded during the monsoon and also gauge the possibility of the third wave of the pandemic, a top official of SpiceJet told The Indian Express.

The Twin Otter DHC-300 aircraft, registered as 8Q-ISC with Maldivian Aero, had flown back to its home country on April 9, a day after it last flew from the Sabarmati Riverfront to the Dyke 3 of Sardar Sarovar Dam near the Statue of Unity. While the suspension of services was decided, keeping in mind the pandemic and the inability to follow Covid-19 protocols during operation, SpiceJet has now decided to let the aircraft stay back in its home country until later this year.

A top official of SpiceJet’s Seaplane operations said on Wednesday, “We have decided to wait and watch the monsoon as well as the pandemic. The weather conditions in Kevadia are harsh and the monsoon is likely to see a lot of cancellation of flights so we have decided not to fly during the monsoon. In addition, no one knows how the pandemic will react. The prediction for the third wave, following the monsoon is very close.”

“The aircraft is a small one and it is not possible to maintain social distancing… Moreover, the pandemic has affected the business as passengers are not showing up… So we will wait to gauge if the third wave of Covid19 will hit operations again. We will wait for tourism to pick up again before commencing the operations to avoid repeated suspensions,” the official added.

The official further said that the company is utilizing the time to restructure the operations and build the infrastructure needed to run seaplane services.

“The recent cyclone (Tauktae) that hit Gujarat, has made us realise that we would have been in trouble if the seaplane was parked at Sabarmati Riverfront. We do not have a hangar for safety yet… Also, we don’t have pilots here and we have to send the crew back when the operations are suspended. We do not have a maintenance jetty… At the moment, the maintenance jetty at Sabarmati is under construction,” he said.

The seaplane, which is registered with Maldivian Aero and wet-leased to SpiceJet, however, has been functional in the Maldives during its time off from the SoU-Ahmedabad route. The seaplane flew multiple times between Male and Hulhule islands in May. The official said, “It so happened that when the plane went back to the Maldives, their tourism opened up… It does not matter to SpiceJet because it is wet-leased and we pay them only when it is operational here for us. However, in the long term, we are planning to set up a fleet of our own for multiple destinations in the country…”

This is the fourth major suspension of the service since its launch on October 31, 2020 — and also the longest. In absence of the seaplane, the water aerodromes constructed at Sabarmati and Kevadia are vacant.

Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Limited (GUJSAIL) Chairman & Managing Director, Captain Ajay Chauhan told this newspaper, “The aerodromes are fully operational but because we do not have any other seaplane or amphibious aircraft in India, there will be no activity here until the seaplane returns… The service will resume once the weather, as well as the situation of the Covid19 pandemic, is clear.”

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