The much-awaited seaplane services, which were set to commence in Goa this week, have a hit a roadblock in the form of a delay in receiving the due permissions needed to start the operations.
The delay has been caused by the officials of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) as they have delayed their inspection of the identified landing sites.
MehAir, the seaplane operator, had temporarily eased its operations in Mumbai and shifted its focus to Goa and Kerala to capitalise on the booming tourism industry. Ironically, plans to kick off services in Goa on January 6 had to be put off, in view of the pending DGCA inspection.
"While the no-objection certificate has been obtained, officials will come to inspect the landing sites on Thursday. Once they give us the final go ahead, the seaplane services will begin," Goa tourism minister Dilip Parulekar told Mumbai Mirror.
Sites identified for landing the seaplanes include Mandovi River and Chapora River so that the tourists can fly directly from the airport to the coastal belt. Seaplanes were initially promised during the current tourism season, and a demo flight was also conducted. However, owing to persistent issues regarding clearances, they are yet to be given a final go ahead. Other plans such as helicopter services, amphibious buses and hovercraft services are also in the pipeline, all of which are awaiting central government clearances.
"The idea is to run the sea planes connecting Dabolim airport to different rivers across the state," Parulekar said, adding that while the launch date might have been missed but the state government was keen on ensuring that it takes off during the current tourist season. Parulekar said he expected Goa to attract 7.5 million visitors this year.
Goa tourism officials, who were in Mumbai earlier to promote their seaplane plans for the state, explained that plans were afoot to start amphibious vehicle services for tourists, which will take them from cities to inland water routes, once they alighted from the seaplanes. "With sea planes landing in the Mandovi and Chapora rivers, tourists would directly be flown from the airport to the coastal heartland," Parulekar said.
Launched in August 2014 with two Cessna seaplanes, MehAir managed to initially attract passengers for its intra-state flight services. However, red-tapism, environment issues, and inclement weather added to its woes. One of its big-ticket projects was to connect Juhu and Girgaum Chowpatty.