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DGCA looks for seaplane ports in Gujarat

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Gandhinagar: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has carried out an assessment to determine where seaplanes can be used in Gujarat. However, the survey has not included the Sabarmati riverfront from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Dharoi dam near Ambaji on a seaplane in December 2017. That was the first seaplane flight in Gujarat. Senior officers of the DGCA and private consultants visited Dharoi dam, Dwarka, and Somnath in Gujarat; and the Union territory of Diu to assess water stretches for seaplane use. Neither did the ministry of civil aviation include the Sabarmati riverfront in the survey nor did the Gujarat government recommend it.

Captain Irshad Ahmed, the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s technical consultant who visited all the suggested water stretches, said: “The Ministry of Civil Aviation and DGCA had asked us to check the technical possibility of using seaplanes at Dharoi dam in North Gujarat and Somnath and Dwarka in the Saurashtra.” He said there was no recommendations from the Government of India or the Government of Gujarat to evaluate the Sabarmati riverfront. “If we get instructions, we may do so in the future,” he said.

Captain Ajay Chauhan — Director Civil Aviation, Gujarat — said: “The DGCA makes the selections according to certain standards. It had included Somnath and Dwarka. We had suggested the inclusion of Dharoi.” He said that the Sabarmati riverfront lies below the normal air route and is close to the airport. “On safety and security parameters, the riverfront needs careful consideration,” he said. “For the PM or VVIPs it’s possible to control air traffic but for normal usage, certain technical considerations will come into play. As the seaplanes under consideration are amphibious, they can use Ahmedabad airport too.” That call, he said, should be taken by the state and central governments.

The state government has proposed a new seaplane tourism policy and has allocated a special grant in the current budget. A key source aware of the developments said: “To promote regional air travel within the state, we are giving Viability Gap Funding (VGF) and other incentives. Under the proposed policy to promote seaplane tourism, we have proposed similar or more VGF for vendors.”

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