Saturday, December 05, 2020

Ahmedabad’s water hangar to improve seaplane services, allow local maintenance

Ahmedabad/Vadodara: The state government plans to connect Sabarmati Riverfront to Dharoi dam for Ambaji, Shatrunjay Dam for Palitana, and Tapi with seaplane services under the 10-year ‘Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik’ or UDAN project of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Currently, the seaplane service from Sabarmati Riverfront to Statue of Unity in Narmada district is suspended for 15 days, until December 15, as the amphibious aircraft has flown to its home country, the Maldives, for mandatory maintenance and servicing. The new water hangar, officials said, will allow the maintenance and servicing of the seaplane to be undertaken locally.

The SpiceJet, which has a three-year contract with the Gujarat government to operate the service between Ahmedabad and the three destinations — of which, the Statue of Unity route was inaugurated on October 31 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — confirmed that a water hangar is under construction at Sabarmati Riverfront.

“At this point in time, what we are looking at and what is under progress is the construction of a wet and dry dock and this will act as a temporary maintenance hangar for seaplanes and over a period of time we will see where a permanent hangar can be built,” SpiceJet told The Indian Express in response to an email query.

Since its launch on October 31, the seaplane service has been suspended for maintenance at least twice. On November 3, just three days after the launch, the plane was docked for two days at the Sabarmati riverfront for repairs. Its operation was suspended again on November 29 when the plane, registered under the ownership of Maldivian Aero, flew back to the Maldives for maintenance.

“These aircraft need regular maintenance, and in the absence of a dry and wet dock, this aircraft couldn’t be maintained properly in India. At SpiceJet, safety is the topmost priority. The aircraft has been flown to the Maldives for essential maintenance and our operations will resume on December 15 once the aircraft is back,” the airline’s spokesperson said.

Captain Ajay Chauhan, the Director of Aviation of Gujarat, said the AAI’s hangar that is coming up at Sabarmati Riverfront will be a “permanent” structure. “The hangar is being constructed by the Union Civil Aviation Ministry and Airports Authority of India. There will be underwater pillars and it will be an RCC structure that will allow an aircraft to land and be serviced. The current contract with SpiceJet is for three years and there could be more operators in the future. The overall period of the Udan scheme is of 10 years, so we are looking at it as a permanent structure.”

05/12/20 Avinash Nair/Indian Express

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