Sunday, February 21, 2021

Why the Ahmedabad-Kevadia seaplane keeps flying to Maldives for maintenance

 Vadodara: The Ahmedabad-Kevadia seaplane returned from the Maldives on Tuesday (February 16) after a two-week maintenance tour at its home country. This was the third major suspension since its launch on October 31, 2020.

The seaplane has been suspended thrice; November 4-5 and November 28-December 28 last year, and earlier this month from February 2 to 16 — and flown to Male on two occasions in December and February.

An official of SpiceJet said a thorough maintenance check is part of the operation manual of the seaplane, which is a Twin Otter-300 aircraft. “The plane will keep going back to the Maldives — its home country — every time it completes 124 flying hours. This is because the infrastructure to carry out the maintenance is not available in India. Moreover, the maintenance is not just about physical servicing but requires certification at various levels. The flight is registered in the Maldives and the aviation bodies there need to check the flight and certify that it is fit for flying. It is the property of that country,” the official said.

The executive added that the distance of close to 1,130 nautical miles between Ahmedabad and Male means that ferrying the aircraft for maintenance is an added expenditure for SpiceJet, which has a wet-lease with Maldivian Aero.

“It takes about 48 hours, and we have to set up temporary and emergency facilities every 250 nautical miles, from Ahmedabad to Mumbai to Goa to Cochin and finally to Male,” the official said, adding that it is an expensive affair.

India does not have a maintenance facility for a seaplane. The Twin Otter 300 series rests on two floats. It can land and take off solely on the water as it has no wheels, making it impossible to land on regular runways.

“The maintenance facilities are being built and we are narrowing down on a location in the Sabarmati Riverfront. An aircraft maintenance facility requires multiple levels of certifications. Even if we make these maintenance facilities, we do not have agencies that can certify this aircraft in India. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has travelled to the Maldives to understand how the operations run because that country has the biggest seaplane operation in the world, with more than 100 planes flying every day. It is also the nearest to India,” said the executive.

Canada and Europe also run seaplane operations. According to the official, as per the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) document, a Certificate of Airworthiness is mandatory and it is the Maldivian agencies that are authorised to clear the seaplane as “fit for flying”.

According to SpiceJet, the seaplane service will be disrupted from time to time until the Covid-19 pandemic ends and the aviation company is able to procure its own fleet of the aircraft.

21/02/21  Aditi Raja/India  Express

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