ETW Staff – Kochi
Kerala Tourism’s first seaplane that will connect the state’s most popular backwater destinations arrived at Kochi airport to a ceremonial welcome. Kerala minister for tourism, A P Anil Kumar, accompanied by State Planning Board vice chairman, K M Chandrasekhar and tourism secretary Suman Billa, formally received the aircraft as it touched down at the Nedumbassery international airport on its maiden flight to Kerala.
The six-seater Cessna 206 H amphibian aircraft, capable of flying five hours at a stretch, was welcomed with a water salute by two tankers of the CIAL fire force. It was flown in by Captain Michael Fabry, a Belgian national, who has about 3,500 hours of flying experience.
Speaking on the occasion, Kumar described the introduction of the seaplane as a big boost to the fast growing tourism sector and said the service would be formally inaugurated by chief minister Oommen Chandy at Ashtamudi lake in Kollam district on June 2.
Suman Billa said the seaplane operation is a turning point for tourism promotion activities. He informed that the service will have the four airports of Trivandrum, Kochi, Calicut and Mangalore as base stations and will connect key backwater tourism destinations of Ashtamudi in Kollam, Punnamada in Alappuzha and Bekal in Kasaragod districts.
Bengaluru-based Kairali Aviation will run the maiden service of the seaplane project which is based on a Zero Subsidy – Open Sky Policy. Besides Kairali Aviation, Kerala Tourism has shortlisted four other companies for operating the seaplane services. “Once the other agencies begin operations, it will give ample scope for competition in this sector. We expect it to be a very profitable activity, going by the growing number of domestic and overseas tourists reaching the state every year,” Billa said.