Days after low-cost carrier SpiceJet said it is in talks with Japan's Setouchi Holdings to purchase 100 Kodiak amphibious planes, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said Russian and Japanese firms have expressed interest in supplying amphibious planes to India which also include 50 seater planes.
"India has a huge potential in seaplanes that can overhaul connectivity. A Russian firm has approached us for supplying 50 seater amphibious planes which have multiple uses right from passenger and cargo transportation to fire fighting, rescue and defence operations," the transport and water resources minister Nitin Gadkari said.
"Airports are in short supply in India. Lots of the growth in India is happening in small markets, but those small markets have little or no connectivity. So we are looking for a solution where we can get flights to places where no airports exist," SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh told Bloomberg.
"The basic logic for this is that in India, we need last-mile connectivity. The amphibian plane opens up a lot of areas, creates a lot of flexibility. The Kodiak planes also could be deployed to tourist sites such as the western lake-town of Udaipur, where the airport is far away from the main city," Singh said.
SpiceJet's announcement comes weeks after the budget carrier signed a pact with Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier to supply 50 turboprop jets valued at $1.7 billion. SpiceJet had earlier signed an initial pact with the US aircraft maker Boeing Co for 40 737 MAX planes.
Amphibious aircraft can take off and land on both short strips and water bodies. Amphibious aircrafts are slower and heavier but are more versatile than the usual land planes. They could be slightly tricky to manoeuvre as these planes, unlike helicopters, cannot hover in the same place and cannot land vertically. They however, do have a longer range than helicopters. Since these planes can land on water, they have floats as well as wheels for landing.
As per PM Modi's vision, using these amphibious aircraft could lead to bridging of the connectivity gap in the country. In line with the government plans to convert 111 rivers into national waterways in the country, Gadkari said, proposals are being examined for introducing seaplanes at Yamuna, Ganga and other water bodies.
Gadkari, however, made it clear that the proposal is at an early stage and involved multiple issues right from various regulatory permissions, route assessments, creation of hydro ports on the pattern of airports and seaports. The minister said that similarly a Japanese firm has also evinced interest in such projects and a trial show could be held in November-end at Varanasi.
Once the projects are approved, Gadkari said, they can be taken at a large scale across the country as India has a huge potential in this sector and it will change the face of the tourism sector as well as communication.
"Every city in India has large water bodies which could easily serve the seaplanes. Besides, we are introducing amphibious buses and recently have sent one such bus to Ahmedabad," the minister said.
Amphibious aircraft were initially produced in UK between the two World Wars. They were primarily used for military duties including search and rescue operations, and to spot artilleries. It could be an effective way out to connect areas that are water-locked as well.
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