Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ten-seater Quest Kodiak lands at girgaum chowpatty: Fog delays seaplane flight; Gadkari, Gajapathi Raju wait for 2 hrs to watch it land

The scheduled demo flight of a seaplane got delayed due to thick fog on Saturday, but Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, along with senior aviation officials, decided to wait for almost two hours to watch it land at Girgaum Chowpatty. 

The flight failed to get take-off clearance at the scheduled time from the Air Traffic Control (ATC) of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA). Low visibility, followed by air traffic congestion, led to the delay. The flight was part of the second phase of trials by SpiceJet, which proposes to introduce seaplane services in the country and expects to make at least 10 planes operational within the next 12 months. SpiceJet had in September signed a memorandum of understanding with Japanese firm Setouchi Holdings, manufacturer of the amphibious Kodiak planes, to procure them.

Following the trial, Gadkari assured that the ministry of civil aviation and the ministry of shipping will formulate the required regulations for seaplanes in the country within three months.

After a press conference at around 12.45 pm, Gadkari, Raju and senior SpiceJet officials were taken by boat to the floater where the seaplane was supposed to be parked after landing. The delay in the seaplane’s arrival kept them waiting inside the boats. “We were informed that the plane did not get take-off clearance from the ATC. When the ministers were informed, they insisted on waiting till the plane comes. As soon as the plane landed, the ministers were briefed about the design of the plane. Gadkari also sat inside the plane when it was stationed near the floater,” a SpiceJet official said.  Amphibian planes can land and take off from land and water and require a short runway for movement.

SpiceJet had scheduled the demo flight of its 10-seater Kodiak model from Mumbai airport to Girgaum Chowpatty to depart from the airport by 1.15 pm and reach Chowpatty within 15 minutes. However, the plane could leave only at 2.40 pm. It reached Chowpatty in less than 10 minutes. After landing at Chowpatty, it took off again and circled in the air one more time.

“Due to visibility issues, the ATC could not give clearance. While a visibility of 1,500 metres is required, the airport reported a visibility of 1,300 metres. This forced the plane to step out of the line of the aircraft scheduled for take-off. This delayed its departure,” Ajay Singh, Chairman & Managing Director, SpiceJet, said.

“Visibility was low for an aircraft like this. We could not give it the required clearance for at least 25 to 30 minutes. Later, they had to line up again behind other aircraft to fly out of the airport from the main runway,” Rajiv Saxena. General Manager, Air Traffic Control, Mumbai airport, said.

“The demo was to allow policymakers to check the flight. We are hopeful of launching it soon. Also, landing a seaplane in Mumbai brings with itself an equal sense of excitement. It is also a good way of understanding where work needs to be done and find any gaps in actually flying a plane. Even for the demo flight, dozens of clearances had to be taken. We understood the regulations that need to be framed here. We will now study what visibility parameters are present in other countries and what we must adopt,” Singh added.

Officials said the first phase of trials was conducted at Nagpur and Guwahati. “Within the next three months, the ministry of civil aviation and the ministry of shipping will formulate the required regulations for seaplanes in the country. Taking cues from rules in place in countries including the US, Canada and Japan where the planes are in use, we will formulate the complete policy. The required infrastructure would also be duly developed,” Gadkari said.

“The potential for amphibian plane remains immense as these can land on short runways. 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 added.

SpiceJet plans to buy at least 100 seaplanes from Setouchi Holdings. Each plane costs Rs 4 crore.

“We will take due care to see all clearances are met and we are within the ambit of rules. We will begin operations only if it is commercially viable,” Singh added.

Kazuyuki Okada, president and CEO, Setouchi Holdings Inc. said, “Kodiaks are the perfect flying machines that can effectively connect the country’s remote cities and airstrips, which can in turn revolutionise the regional connectivity scheme.”

The Quest Kodiak plane

Primarily a small aircraft, it could range from a nine-seater to a 15-seater airplane. The planes hardly require a runway length of 300 metres for takeoff and landing, allowing its usage in remote locations. It is equipped with floats that allow it to take off from or land on waterways.

Fitted with Pratt and Whitney PT6A turbine engine, it can land and take off from unimproved surfaces. There are about 200 Kodiak aircraft flying all over the world for the past 10 years.

Original article can be found here ➤

Mumbai, Dec 9 --  Budget carrier SpiceJet, which plans to buy more than 100 amphibian aircraft at an estimated cost of USD 400 million, may put these seaplanes into operations within one year.

The budget carrier today conducted the second phase of the seaplane trials at the Girgaum Chowpatty off the city coast.

The demo flight, carried out in association with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings was however, not without the hiccups as the poor visibility delayed its take off by over one-and- half-hour.

Under the first phase, trials were conducted in Nagpur and Guwahati.

The demo flight was conducted in the presence of Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Minister for Road Transport, Highways, Shipping and Water Resources Nitin Gadkari and SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh.

"The whole idea is to have it (operations) within a space of next 12 months. It should take 3-6 months to form rules. There is a lot of excitement about this plane for providing connectivity," Singh said.

SpiceJet played a big role in the first phase of regional connectivity Udan and what it is witnessing here is Udan 2.0, Singh said

"Because what we are trying to connect here are the places which have never been connected by air travel. Our seaplane service will open a whole new market for both the airline and tourism industry and will revolutionise the regional connectivity scheme," he said.

Seaplane operations can bring the remotest parts of India into the mainstream aviation network without the high cost of building airports and runways, Singh added.

The Gurgaon-based airline is the only domestic airline to explore air connectivity through water bodies such as rivers or inland waterways.

Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, regions in the North East, Andamans, Lakshadweep and other coastal areas are a few destinations that are being evaluated for amphibious plane operations, the airline said.

"India has a coastline running as long as 7,000 km... We are looking at numerous destinations with numerous applications. We hope this demo flight will lead to a flurry of activities, which will enhance tourism in the country," Raju said.

SpiceJet and Setouchi Holdings have been working closely for over six months to explore opportunities for small 10 and 14-seater amphibious and land plane operations to provide air connectivity to smaller towns and cities of India remain unconnected due to infrastructural challenges.

Speaking on the occasion, Gadkari said he will ensure all infrastructure require for seaplane operations is in place and will work out the formulation of rules along with the civil aviation ministry.

"SpiceJet has been doing an incredible job in driving the government's UDAN scheme from the very beginning. We are delighted to associate with the airline to support them in their grand endeavour.

"We look forward to exploring new opportunities with SpiceJet which will help us serve India better," said Kazuyuki Okada, President & CEO of Setouchi Holdings Inc.

Quest Aircraft Company LLC — part of Japan’s diversified Tsuneishi Group — is a manufacturer of the amphibian planes. The company is owned by Setouchi Holdings, part of the Tsuneishi Group.

Quest Aircraft also manufactures Kodiak 100 planes that can carry up to eight passengers, depending on the configuration.

It can take off and land on a short runway as well as handle uneven terrain and mountainous areas, according to the Japanese group. 

Original article can be found here ➤

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