The iconic sea plane service, which was to connect Mumbai to the Amby Valley in Lonavala, finally took its first flight to the Pawana Dam on the 25th August 2014. This unique venture of Amphibian planes is the second of its kind in India. Mumbai-based Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt Ltd (MEHAIR) has been entrusted with the duty of the operation of these flights in collaboration with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). Providing an alternative to the time consuming long drives on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the sea plane service will make it super-easy for the travellers to reach up to the tourist destinations in the Western Ghats.
Extending the sea plane service
The amphibian Cessnas can take off as well as land in water. As of now, the sea plane service is available up to the destinations close to Lonavala but the operators plan to extend them to the tourist hubs like Nasik, Shirdi and Mahabaleshwar. Moreover, the idea of including the Mumbai Beaches is also in the process of scrutinization for its viability. About 45 minutes of travel time is cut short while utilizing this amazing sea service. Both daily and weekly flights have witnessed stupendous response and the service has been loaded with heavy bookings already. The company currently has two running flights but plans of acquiring one more next month and two more by the end of the year are on the go.
The sea plane services were pioneered by MEYHAIR in India in January 2011 at the Andaman and Nicobar islands. On its part, the company plans to expand its services to all the coastal areas having beaches and the landlocked states with lakes, rivers or dams. For this purpose, the MTDC is working with the irrigation ministry to identify various big and small water bodies for starting sea plane flights across the state. Generally, a sea plane is a fixed-wing aircraft which can take off or land on water. In order to take off a flight, the sea plane require a 1 km long airstrip or a water body with the same length and at least 10 feet of depth.
The new weekend destinations
The introduction of the sea plane service is a major step in the growth of the tourism sector of Maharashtra. By cutting short the travelling time, these services have not only made it convenient for the commuters to connect but have also laid the stepping stones in the facilitation of the tourism department. These useful flights have turned the holiday destinations to weekend destinations by making it easier to reach out. Not only will the tourists save time but will also be spared of the fatigue involved in reaching these places. The service will further be extended to the tourist destinations and pilgrimages in the water bodies which lack air connectivity, thereby, giving tourism a major boost in the business.
Looking at the kind of response received after the inaugural flight we can say that the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has definitely taken the right step towards catalysing the growth of tourism in the state.