Civil Aviation Ministry clears water aerodrome project on Chilika

New Delhi: The Civil Aviation Ministry has approved a proposal for setting up of water aerodrome in Chilika lake in Odisha.

The move comes as a part of the union ministry’s attempt to develop water aerodromes near locations of tourist and religious importance in the country with two other projects being Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat.

The proposal was cleared by Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu yesterday.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued regulations in June this year, prescribing procedures and requirement for licensing of water aerodromes.

Since there is no historical data on the market and demand from any airlines, the project will be done as a pilot project, the ministry official said. The development would pave the way for operation of amphibian planes (both in land and water) to enhance air connectivity.

The Airports Authority of India has already identified the sites in Odisha, Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh where water aerodrome would be developed.

“In the first phase, Chilika Lake in Odisha, Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat have been identified for development of water aerodromes,” the official said.

Prabhu today tweeted a news report, titled “In a step towards seaplanes, government clears ‘water aerodrome’ rules”.

Meanwhile, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan thanked Prabhu in a tweet message for in principle approval for the water aerodrome project at Chilika lake.

Earlier, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said that his ministry was also considering a proposal to look at seaplane operation under phase III of the regional connectivity scheme UDAN.

According to the DGCA, an entity seeking to set up a water aerodrome has to take approvals from various authorities, including the ministries of defence, home, environment and forests, and shipping.

A water aerodrome license would be valid for two years.

“Initially, a provisional license shall be issued for a period of six months during which implementation of the water aerodrome operation is monitored…Regular license shall be accorded after post implementation monitoring period and completion of corrective action,” the DGCA said.

The formal application for setting up a water aerodrome has to be submitted at least 90 days before the date of intended operations.

Under the aviation regulations, an aerodrome cannot be used for scheduled air transport services, among others, unless there is a license.

Generally, seaplanes are described as fixed-wing aircraft that is designed for taking off and landing on water.

In October last year, no-frills carrier SpiceJet had unveiled plans to buy over 100 amphibian planes, estimated to cost USD 400 million.

The airline had signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings to explore whether the amphibian planes can be used by the airline in a cost-effective manner. It has already approached the Odisha government evincing interest to operate amphibian planes from the Chilika Lake.