Mehair (Mumbai Int'l) has been awarded a contract by the Indian state of Gujarat to relaunch seaplane services between Ahmedabad and Ekta Nagar (previously known as Kevadia), close to the Statue of Unity tourism attraction, using a nine-seater Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Grand Caravan amphibian.

The service was previously operated by SpiceJet (SG, Delhi Int'l) subsidiary SpiceShuttle, which suspended the route on April 10, 2021, on the back of financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now the Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Limited (GUJSAIL) has awarded the tender to Mehair, which is in the final stages of importing a pre-owned Cessna Grand Caravan 208 amphibian from the United States. The aircraft is expected to arrive by mid-August to begin proving flights, according to GUJSAIL Director for Civil Aviation and Chief Executive Officer Ajay Chauhan.

"The letter of operations has been handed out to Mehair, and they were given 120 days to procure the aircraft from the US. They are currently in the last phase of the procedure for procurement of a pre-owned Cessna Grand Caravan. Since new amphibious aircraft are not manufactured in big numbers, we have approved the procurement of a pre-owned aircraft. We are expecting it to arrive in Gujarat by mid-August, following which, the formalities for the registration, technical acceptance, and flying tests by the DGCA will begin."

Mehair was not immediately available for comment.

India's longest-standing seaplane operator, Mehair will operate the aircraft under the Gujarat government's Viability Gap Funding (VGF) scheme instead of the RCS-UDAN scheme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which had launched the service through SpiceJet in 2020, reports The Sunday Express newspaper.

Officials confirmed that Mehair will operate two daily flights between the Sabarmati Riverfront and Dyke Three of Sardar Sarovar Dam, located near the Statue of Unity.

Gujarat Aviation Secretary Hareet Shukla blamed the failure of the SpiceJet service on the pandemic, which had resulted in the closure of the tourism industry. "Things are different now. This time we are working out better viability for the project to sustain itself. We have not set a deadline, but it will happen soon," he said.

The SpiceShuttle service had been short-lived – from October 31, 2020, to April 10, 2021 - and had remained suspended for 47 days due to maintenance requirements. The operator's single DHC-6-300 amphibian, wet-leased from Maldivian (Q2, Malé), had to be sent for mandatory maintenance in the Maldives due to a lack of wet and dry dock facilities in Ahmedabad. The ill-fated project cost the Gujarat state INR77 million rupees (USD1 million).

As reported, tenders for the three-year contract were reissued in January 2022. Three carriers were reported to have expressed interest, Mehair, Ventura AirConnect (Ahmedabad), and an unnamed private firm from Gujarat.