SpiceJet plans amphibian flights within a year

Published On: 09, Dec 2017 | Source: business-standard.com

Ever since Ajay Singh steered from near bankruptcy in 2015, the airline has clocked regular profits and achieved highest loads for 30 months. But Ajay Singh's possible next venture is bound to make a splash. 

aims to start amphibian plane operations in the country within twelve months as it will allow the airline to connect remote locations. 

The initiative has the backing of union shipping minister and civil aviation minister who were present at Mumbai's iconic Marine Drive to witness the demonstration flight on Saturday.

A nine-seater Quest Kodiak aircraft touched down in the sea at around 3 pm after a ten-minute flight from Mumbai airport. Its departure from the airport was however delayed for over an hour and a half because of visibility issues.

This was the aircraft's third demonstration flight after trials in Nagpur and Guwahati.

Amphibian planes can land and take off on both land and water and require short runway length for movement. As such these can land in remote locations.

In September signed a memorandum of understanding with Setouchi Holdings, a manufacturer of the Kodiak planes. While the airline is yet to firm up its plans and sign definitive contracts, Singh has already indicated he would like to have 100 such planes.

"We would like to start operations within a year," Singh said. The airline is examining potential routes and economics of operations of amphibian planes. Potential destinations include places in Uttar Pradesh, North East states, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Maharashtra and other states.

 "We will begin operations only if it is commercially viable," he said. Singh refused to divulge whether he will lease planes and said there were innovative financing models available for the aircraft.

The potential for amphibian plane remains immense as these can land on the short runway.  With capacity constraint at Mumbai airport, airlines could use such amphibian planes to take off from multiple locations of the city's coast and fly to places like Shirdi, Gadkari said.

But the absence of regulations governing amphibian planes and lack of infrastructure remains a challenge. Previous attempts at running such operations failed because of low demand and poor viability.

Gadkari said regulations for amphibian planes will be put in place in three months and the government was studying rules which are in place in other countries.