The Civil Aviation Ministry has approved a proposal for setting up of water aerodromes in the country, with Chilika Lake in Odisha, Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat being identified in the first phase for development of such facilities, an official said on Saturday..
The proposal was cleared by Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu on Friday. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued regulations in June this year, prescribing procedures and requirement for licensing of water aerodromes. Since there is no historical data on the market and demand from any airlines, the project will be done as a pilot project, the ministry official said. The development would pave the way for operation of amphibian planes (both in land and water) to enhance air connectivity.
Under the proposal, water aerodrome would be set up near locations of tourist and religious importance. The Airports Authority of India has already identified the sites in Odisha, Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh where water aerodrome would be developed.
"In the first phase, Chilika Lake in Odisha, Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat have been identified for development of water aerodromes," the official said.
Earlier, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey said that his ministry was also considering a proposal to look at seaplane operation under phase III of the regional connectivity scheme UDAN. According to the DGCA, an entity seeking to set up a water aerodrome has to take approvals from various authorities, including the ministries of defence, home, environment and forests, and shipping.
A water aerodrome license would be valid for two years. "Initially, a provisional license shall be issued for a period of six months during which implementation of the water aerodrome operation is monitored...Regular licence shall be accorded after post implementation monitoring period and completion of corrective action," the DGCA said.
The formal application for setting up a water aerodrome has to be submitted at least 90 days before the date of intended operations. Under the aviation regulations, an aerodrome cannot be used for scheduled air transport services, among others, unless there is a licence. Generally, seaplanes are described as fixed-wing aircraft that is designed for taking off and landing on water.
In October last year, no-frills carrier SpiceJet had unveiled plans to buy over 100 amphibian planes, estimated to cost $400 million. The airline had signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan's Setouchi Holdings to explore whether the amphibian planes can be used by the airline in a cost-effective manner. It has already approached the Odisha government evincing interest to operate amphibian planes from the Chilika Lake.