National airline Maldivian seaplane crew together with Spicejet airlines commenced the first ever seaplane operations in India last October which was a first in Maldivian seaplane history.
The seaplane operations was inaugurated by Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi on 31st October. Daily flights were scheduled between Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity in Kevadia.
Let’s take a look inside the operation with former national airline Deputy Chief Pilot, Captain Sim Jaabir and Captain Ibrahim Ahmed
This was one of a kind of experience to ferry a seaplane on straight floats from Maldives to India on 28th December 2020, to operate between Sabarmati Riverfront and Kevadia for a month and to ferry 8Q-ISC back to Velana International Airport on 3rd of February 2021.
The landscape between Sabarmati Riverfront and Kevadia is totally different from what we have got so accustomed in the archipelago of Maldives. The water runway at Kevadia is surrounded by Terrain with hills reaching heights of three thousand feet which requires the crew to maintain diligent situational awareness and concentration.
The very limited emergency landing spots available en-route, low visibility and crossing multiple airspaces, limited clearways at both Sabarmati Riverfront and Kevadia, and absence of emergency landing areas ahead of take-off areas at to the stressors and require more foresight and vigilance during operation and planning, compared to Maldives.
The ferry flight presents additional challenges. The ferry route MLE-COK-GOA-AHM or vice versa, presents en-route time which are much longer than typical sectors we are used to.
Male’ to Cochin or Cochin to Male’, due to unavailability of supplemental oxygen on-board, forces the crew to stay below 10000 feet which brings the possibility of not able to fly above weather and slower groundspeed. Also, at this altitude the aircraft will fly through a communication dead zone of approximately 45 minutes without being able to talk with the controlling ATC agencies.
We have managed to get a relay or reduced the dead zone by disabling squelch. On Cochin/Goa leg, we have to plan a route which will keep us away from the terrain on the costal line sometimes requesting an alternate to what the ATC has
initially cleared. Coordinating clearances, securing and refueling of the aircraft, and immigration/emigration and customs formalities are very unique and different to what one will experience on the daily operation back in Maldives.
On our ferry into India we had a special request from Navy to do a flight to Minicoy and back to Vathuruthy Naval base.
It was such an honor and privilege to be the first seaplane that landed in Minicoy and to have met the only other people who speak Dhivehi.
As the Pilot in Command to maintain a satisfactory level of safety while staying on the schedule with all these factors is indeed a learning curve and an experience well worth.
Kudos to team Spice based at SRF and SOU and offsite as well. Kudos to Island Aviation team in Maldives. And a special thank you to my friends of engineers, technicians, cabin crews and pilots, who cruised along for a month or so. So much gratitude.
Special Thanks to Captain Musthafa Mansoor, Captain Sim Jaabir and Captain Ibrahim Ahamed