Mumbai: Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel Monday launched `Jal Hans` - the country`s first seaplane - at Juhu aerodrome here, to improve connectivity and tourism in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.
"This is the first time seaplane operations are being introduced in India. The scheme (aims to give) impetus to the tourism infrastructure in the islands," said an official statement.
The service will be operationalised under a memorandum of understanding signed between the Andaman and Nicobar administration and the state-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL).
"The operations will be on a 50:50 loss/profit sharing basis between PHHL and Andaman and Nicobar administration," the statement said.
Jal Hans, which will be operated through a Cessna 208A that has a capacity of eight passengers and two pilots, will connect capital Port Blair with Havelock Island and subsequently other islands in the North Andamans to promote tourism.
"The service will connect Port Blair with Havelock initially," Civil Aviation Secretary Dr. S.N.A. Zaidi said.
In Port Blair, it is proposed to operate from the airport while in Havelock and Diglipur, it will operate from a waterdrome.
Describing the launch as a dream come true, Patel said the government plans to expand the services to most of the popular islands and coastal destinations.
The statement added that seaplane operations will also be introduced in the Lakshadweep, Goa and Orissa among other places, and that the government has allowed 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in this sector.
"The centre is permitting 100 percent foreign direct investment in this sector and service providers like Pawan Hans should float a subsidiary to run a fleet of such seaplanes," Patel said.
Jal Hans is fitted with modern navigation features. It can travel up to 250 km per hour and can land on most calm waters. It can also land on ground using the wheels configuration.
Facilities for ferrying passengers from the shore to the pontoons, sanitisation of the waterdrome before take-off and after landing, speed boats with a capacity of 10 passengers, a standby inflatable boat and one floating jetty (pontoon) will be provided at each location.