A Cessna 206 (VT-KPL) amphibian plane made history on Wednesday morning when it touched the calm and pristine waters of Aamby Lake in Lonavala and took off some time later with the ease of a bird. The flight has paved the way for the opening of mainland India’s first water aerodrome.
The trial flight was the final step in securing technical certification for the setting up of a small airport at Aamby Lake for commercial flight operations.
Civil aviation ministry and DGCA officials, who have been conducting certification tests over the past several days, are expected to give the project a final go-ahead within the next couple of weeks.
Days before the test, aviation experts measured and studied the technicalities like length and depth of the lake, water quality, marine life and wind directions, to check the feasibility of the project.
As per a notification issued by the Airports Authority of India, the minimum length of the lake where such a project is being attempted should be around 1km, and its depth should not be less than 10 feet. The Aamby Lake’s length was found to be 1.7km and depth, 80 feet. “The test flight at Aamby Lake has finally been completed and a report regarding it has been submitted to the civil aviation authorities,” said Siddharth Verma, CEO-director, Meher Pvt Ltd, a city-based aviation company. Jagdish Patil, managing director, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), said that the seaplanes will start flying in the state very soon.
As per the plan, the new water aerodrome will be used by Meher Pvt Ltd to initiate a sea-plane project which it has designed with MTDC to promote tourism in the state. The distance between Juhu airport and Aamby lake could be covered between 25-28 minutes, excluding 20-25 minutes for security checks and boarding.
The project was first planned between Juhu airport to Girgaum Chowpatty so as to target the working executives and tourists in the city. “However, as the project is still to get a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) despite waiting for over a year, the promoters and MTDC decided to start the project at other spots,” said a state government official involved with the development of the project.
Other nearby destinations which will be covered in the first phase of the project include Pawna Dam in Lonavla, Vasargaon Dam in Lavasa, Mula Dam in Ahmednagar (which connects to the pilgrimage site of Shirdi and the Meher baba shrine) and Dhum Dam near Panchgani.
India’s first and only other water aerodrome was built on Andaman island around three years ago.
Another aerodrome which was planned in Kerala could not see the light of day due to protests from the local fishing community.
Promoting tourism in the state
The new water aerodrome will be used by Meher Pvt Ltd to initiate a seaplane project which it has designed with Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to promote tourism in the state. The distance between Juhu airport and Aamby lake could be covered between 25-28 minutes, excluding 20-25 minutes for security checks and boarding.