Monsoon puts a dampener on new Mumbai-Lonavla seaplane service

Constant rainfall and low visibility have grounded the newly launched Mumbai-Lonavla seaplane service since Wednesday

A continuing spell of heavy rainfall and poor visibility has grounded the new seaplane service between Mumbai and Lonavla since Wednesday, less than two weeks after it was launched on August 25. Weather conditions are particularly important for seaplane operations, explained officials from the seaplane operator, Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt Ltd (MEHAIR).

While passengers had already been informed earlier about the chances of flights being cancelled, a complete shutdown for the past three days has disappointed them, as well as the Mumbai-based private operator, which has not generated any income in this period.

An official from MEHAIR said, “On Thursday, we had to cancel the flight on short notice, since it was bright till noon, after which the visibility drastically dropped at Pawana dam. We tried to delay the flight, waiting for the required visibility, but had to cancel it eventually as the weather in Lonavla didn’t seem to improve.”

“Safety of passengers is of utmost importance to us, and, hence, cancelling the flight is always preferred to delaying it. The passengers are either completely reimbursed or offered another flight later,” he added. But, the monsoon may lead to continuing poor weather conditions, and officials said that this could lead to uncertainty in the service till mid- October.

“We see to it that weather conditions are clear, and a five-kilometre visibility is available for an operational flight. We take satellite pictures from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) to check the status. But, because Pawana dam is in a hilly area, the weather changes every 15 minutes. Hence, we prefer to prioritise safety, and either postpone the flight if the weather looks likely to change, or cancel it altogether,” explained an official.

The service
The seaplane service was launched on August 25 by MEHAIR and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), with flights between the Juhu aerodrome and Pawana dam in Lonavla. As part of the inaugural offer, a one-way trip costs Rs 2,999 per person. The private operator, MEHAIR, has two amphibian planes in Mumbai a nine-seater Cessna 208A and a four-seater Cessna 206.

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