The Never Ending Story Of Seaplanes In Kerala


The Never Ending Story Of Seaplanes In Kerala

KeralaOpinion Editorial written by Jason J. Baker – With the largest part of my life spent in Aviation, I still only have some 19 years of time with Seaplanes under my belt. For the youngsters this may sound like a lot, but in reality I feel like a greenhorn more often than not. A bit more than a quarter of this time I have spent watching and waiting to see a miracle happen and slowly but surely I am loosing trust to see it materialize before I retire. Seaplanes In Kerala.

Rainbow Colored Unicorn Covered In Cash

A bit over 5 years have passed since I first heard of plans to bring commercial Seaplanes to India. So far, like clockwork, there have been new announcements hailing into my inbox on a monthly basis, and frankly, I am beginning to have a difficult time to even open them. The last article I saw came from “The New Indian Express” announcing yet another blow to this never ending saga.

To make a long story short, here’s an excerpt that tells the tale of yet another display of ginormous government incompetence, corruption and failure that has crippled India’s tourism potential on a scale that is inexcusable and criminally stupid, at best.

Kerala’s dream to have an exhilarating ride and water landing over the backwaters of the state in a seaplane has finally crash landed with the state government deciding to hand over the equipment and facilities set up for the project to Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL) and DoT and DTPC, signalling the end of the seaplane project which was conceived to give a boost to the tourism sector in the state.

Remember The Yellow Pages Ads?

I believe to remember some pretty nifty advertising for looking into the Yellow Pages prior to engaging in activities which are usually done by professionals. Changing your vehicles brakes, fixing athe garbage disposal in your sink, or playing with electricity come to mind. These are all things best done by professionals who know exactly what they are doing. Those attempting to save a dime, do so at their own risk.

It is beyond my level of understanding just what exactly is going wrong in this developing country, which would have so much potential to better its positioning from a tourism perspective if it finally pulled the trigger and committed to making seaplanes a part of its infrastructure. Its not going to be cheap and its definitely going to take its time. Here’s another prediction: The penny-pinching will fail, every single time!

Seeking Free Consultants And Pilots Is Dumb

All around the world Seaplanes provide a welcome and mostly well manageable addition to the tourism industry of any country. Making it possible requires professionals who can argue a case with skeptical officials and certainly – it requires some stubbornness in terms of telling investors the truth about the time and money it takes to get an operation up and running in today’s day and age. Making its profitable requires solid commitment and pride. I should write PRIDE in capital letters, because I think that the mental state of whoever is behind such an undertaking may at times cause psychiatrists to faint in despair.

Just a few months ago, someone in India reached out to me (again) to provide my consulting services for a “project”. The conversation instantly stalled when the topic of money came up. No professional will take a job of such magnitude on with nothing but a wet handshake and a flimsy promise to get paid some amount X at the successful conclusion of the project.

There must be a half dozen of scouts are out there trying to lure pilots and directors of flight operations into getting involved in this “lucrative business” which has no solid foundation and has done only one thing with any consistency: FAIL! For the time being, it seems more productive to get authorities to commit to this task, rather than jumping off the horse every few months.

It Won’t Get Done For A Dime

Making a commercial seaplane operation a reality requires dedication, effort and stamina and it will cost a healthy dollar. Being aware of cost is a paramount part of healthy businesses. While writing business plans isn’t quite rocket science, I’d say there are at least 10 highly qualified individuals available worldwide who could help make it happen – from regulatory constipation to access challenges, to the acquisition of suitable aircraft’s all the way to securing professional pilots who are willing to dedicate a year of their well paid time to jump-start this industry in India. But, like with many other dreams, this will require an investor to stop producing copper wire (by fighting over copper pennies) when it comes to securing talent.

Not one of those I could recommend will work for free and I don’t know a single one who will put his name under a business plan that has traditionally never held any water. When the investor decides to put his/ her money into knitting, those of us who spent our whole life in this industry are still around. I have a feeling, that until the tire-kickers get shown where the door is this endless saga will continue to reveal just how screwed up things are in a country that hasn’t yet realized 10% of its tourism potential.

Jason Baker works as a freelance writer and marketing & advertising consultant. He holds a commercial pilot certificate (SEL/SES/MEL), instrument rating as well as advanced & instrument ground instructor certificates. Jason is the owner & managing editor of and also serves as Editor Europe for For more information about consulting services offered, visit Baker Aviation Consulting & Services.

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1 Comment on "The Never Ending Story Of Seaplanes In Kerala"

  1. Jason has painted a perfect picture of the situation. I am involved as a consultant in a project in China and have relations with Indians willing to set up a seaplane operation. Two countries where water aviation could have a huge development in next decades.

    The problems are:

    – Local prospective operators do not have a clear idea of what setting up a seaplane operation means, the services to offer that can keep the operation alive, the limitations posed by the physic atmospheric and hydrologic environment and by regulations.

    – Local aviation and land/water authorities are not prepared to regulate an activity totally unknown to them. In the best cases they ask for advise, but it’s in any case difficult to mix and combine the high level of freedom needed for offering services with seaplanes with the Cold-War-type regulations very often in force in those countries.

    – Environmentalists, who are the most able to use medias, diffuse the idea that the presence of a machine with an engine is itself a inevitable danger for the environment. There is nothing less true, in the case of seaplanes, but an examination of this issue is beyond the scope of this short communication. In any case, authorities tend to listen to unproven theories on the supposed environmental impact of seaplanes, not much for their scientific background, but for the fear of an involvement in a possible media controversy.

    The mentioned difficulties do not mean that setting up a seaplane operation is impossible, but simply that the path is long, demanding in terms of know-how and expensive.

    A sophisticated activity as water flying requires a high level of competence and in the emerging countries this competence can only come from far away, i.e. from those who have managed such activities for decades and know well what are all the requirements that make an operation feasible. We saw in too many cases failures for rough and avoidable errors made at the start-up.

    The terrible accident of Joy Air in China demonstrated the incompetence of a company as AVIC (the owner of Joy Air), the largest aviation industry in China, just because they did not felt that a seaplanes business was new for them.

    In addition, in the absence of an independent investigation authority, the responsibility of the accident has been given totally to the pilots, while the operator, who put two completely inexperienced pilots at the controls of a seaplane for its maiden flight, with authorities and journalists on board, was even unmentioned in the report. Those fatalities changed the feelings, and the image of seaplanes will take time to recover.

    China and India and all the other countries of the Far East are ideal places for a seaplane operation, as water is abundant everywhere and there is a high need of an intense transportation network for both tourism and commuting, but prospective operators need to know that thay have to follow a path with the help of proper advisors, in order to have their seaplanes ready to take tourists or commuters to their destinations.

    Cesare Baj
    [email protected]

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