New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) India’s niche airline operators have shown interest in the Twin Otter small aircraft that has the unique ability to operate from land, water or snow and also has applications in the defence sectors.
‘Companies like Pawan Hans and (regional airline) Air One, as also corporates like Essar and Religare, have expressed interest in the Twin Otter and we are taking this forward,’ Madhav B. Lokur, who represents the aircraft’s Canadian manufacturer Viking Air in India, told IANS.
‘Given its versatility, we also think that the aircraft would be a tremendous asset for the armed forces,’ he added.
The new Series 400 aircraft is an improvement over the rugged and reliable Series 300 with a few major and hundreds of upgrades utilising today’s technology like latest avionics, new material for airframe, new engine and a glass cockpit, Lokur explained.
‘It can be fitted with standard wheel gear, intermediate floatation gear for operations in rough field environments, straight and amphibious floats or skies. Within a day, the aircraft can be modified from floats to wheel gear and vice versa,’ Lokur explained.
Capable of operating from runways as short as 1,500 feet, the Twin Otter can be configured for a variety of roles ranging from a 19-seater passenger aircraft to serving as a maritime surveillance platform.
‘Some of the applications we see for the Twin Otter in India are improving connectivity in the northeast, connecting intra tier-two cities and inter tier-two and tier-three cities, connecting Kerala with the Lakshwadeep Islands and connecting the islands in the Andaman and Nicobar chain.
‘This apart, since the aircraft is amphibious, it can be used by the defence forces for surveillance and search and rescue operations,’ Lokur pointed out.
Viking Air introduced the Twin Otter to the Indian market at the Hyderabad international air show last month and received encouraging response with Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel being among those who stopped by.
‘R.K. Tyagi, the CMD of Pawan Hans termed it a useful product, while V.P. Agarwal, the chairman of the Airports Authority of India termed it an excellent product,’ Lokur said.
The Twin Otter was originally manufactured by de Havilland Canada, with some 800 aircraft produced, of which about half are still flying. Production ceased 22 years ago and in 2007, Viking Air bought the aircraft’s type certificate to become its original equipment manufacturer.
The first all-new Series 400 Twin Otter flew at Calgary Feb 16 and will be delivered next month to its launch customer, Zimex Aviation of Switzerland, which will deploy it in North Africa to service the oil and gas industry.
The company has received firm orders for 40 aircraft. Ten are in various stages of final assembly and production is slated at three aircraft every eight weeks.