Spice Jet, the country’s second-largest low-cost airline, said it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings to explore opportunities to acquire small amphibious aircraft — 10-14-seaters — in order to further improve air connectivity to places devoid of airport infrastructure.
Amphibious aircraft can land without any runway strips. Hence, it can be used in places where no airport infrastructure exists.
According to Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director, SpiceJet, Japan’s Setouchi Group is known for making small rugged aircraft, which can land on any given patch of land and water. “We are studying the financial viability of this project and a decision will be taken in the next three or four months. We have to place an order of at least 100 or more aircraft and the order value could be in the range of approximately $400 million,” Singh said.
Japan’s Setouchi Holdings, a pioneer in the small aircraft aviation industry, is part of the Tsuneishi Group of Hiroshima Prefecture. Setouchi Holding owns Quest, the manufacturer of specialized amphibious and non-amphibious range of aircraft globally.
The airline is also studying the possibility of raising funds from the Japanese government at low interest rates. Demo flights of these aircraft have already taken place in Nagpur and Guwahati.
“We are exploring opportunity in most of the states. Assam is important because many parts of the north-eastern states are not properly connected and Guwahati will become an important hub for us in connecting these remote places. Our focus is to keep ticket prices as low as possible but keeping in mind the commercial viability and profitability of the airline,” explained Singh.
Once acquired, Spice Jet will be the first scheduled commuter airline to have such small aircraft in the fleet. This will also help the airline expand operations under the regional connectivity scheme.
“We are delighted to associate with SpiceJet for exploring opportunities in the field of aviation. We are happy to introduce Kodiak, which will support this objective. Under this association, we have already executed land plane demonstrations in Nagpur and Guwahati. As a next step, we would also like to go for seaplane demonstration soon,” said Go Okazaki, executive MD, Setouchi Holdings.