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Nitin Gadkari tooks seaplane trial at Marine Drive Mumbai

Surface Transport Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari has said that 10,000 seaplanes will be purchased by India in the coming times. He has also said that he will land on Ganga in Varanasi in a seaplane when he comes next. It may be a good step taken by the BJP Government but the Congress President Shri Rahul Gandhi Said that the “visit of Prime Minister to Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati river by seaplane is not an adventure but only distraction” at the time of Gujarat Elections.

Sea Planes| Outdated| Dangerous|Not Successful|Failures

The seaplanes were being used before the Second World War since then mostly land based air planes are being used. The reasons for not using seaplanes are as follows:

  • Seaplanes require very quiet water in order to be able to land. Often the winds create waves in water and that makes it difficult or even dangerous for a seaplane to land.
    seaplanes requires clam water surface for safe landing
  • The landing also made difficult because there wind force can destabilize the plane. 
    seaplanes gets misbalanced by the pressure of Seashore winds
  • The seaplane requires more power to take off. The land based planes move on wheels. The friction between wheels and land is much less than the friction between the pontoons fixed below the seaplanes and water. As a result seaplanes require more power to take off.

  • Seaplanes are heavier compare to Land Planes because they have the additional weight of pontoons. A Study by the Naval Surface Centre Carderock Division of United States found that the ratio of payload to weight was 0.25 for land base planes against 0.1 for seaplanes. This means that the capacity of Land based planes is about 2.5 times more than the seaplanes. The graph below shows the payload to weight ratio for seaplanes (amphibious) in blue dots and land based planes in green dots.

  • The seaplanes are heavy hence they fly below 5000 feet. As a result they are also more subject to wind movements which are closer to the surface of the earth and this makes a travel very uncomfortable.

  • The seaplanes require more maintenance because they are working near water which is more corrosive. The engines have to be inspected after every time they land and they wear out more frequently.

    seaplanes engines get corroded very easily as it touches water regularly

For these reasons seaplanes are not being used across the world after the Second World War accept for certain specific places.

 Use of Seaplanes

The seaplanes are being used today only where one has to transport people for short distances which are accessible only by water. For example a travel from Male in Maldives to another island is more easily done by seaplane because water is present everywhere and it is not possible to make a land based airfield in every island. Below we give some more examples:

  •  If one has to land in a remote dense forest where there is a water body then a seaplane may be useful because it is not possible to make airport easily.
seaplanes are very useful for dense forest and remote areas
  • The seaplanes are useful for rescue missions. If a ship has sunk and passengers are floating on the sea then it is easy to reach them by a seaplane, land near them and rescue them.

seaplanes are very useful for rescue operations between Sea
  • Seaplanes can be used for law enforcement such as arresting illegal migrants or illegal fishermen because one can reach them very quickly and also land on water.

The above uses of seaplanes indicate that seaplanes are used only where it is not possible to reach by land.

In this circumstance, the proposal of Mr. Gadkari is totally unwarranted. The proposal to link parts of Mumbai through seaplanes is not effective because one can easily travel between the same areas by either Helicopters or by rail or road. The idea of landing in Varanasi on Ganga by seaplane is useless because airport is available at Varanasi. The only purpose of introducing seaplanes in India could be a snob-value to convey to people that the Government is marching ahead when actually the Government is pushing the people to more risk and high cost.


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