Wipaire Touches Down in the Maldives
Situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a small island nation dominated by vast ocean vistas dotted with idyllic tropical islands. Covering an area of 90,000 square kilometers ? about the size of Maine ? the Maldives is comprised of 99 percent water and 1 percent land mass.
Since the first resort opening in the mid-1970s, the Maldives has gone from a sleepy island nation to one of the most sought after tropical destinations today. In 2008 alone, 683,000 people visited this remote corner of the Indian Ocean to go diving, surfing and to experience some of what the best resorts in the world have to offer.
For a country largely dominated by water, getting to and from resort islands can represent a logistical challenge for visitors. Resorts close to Mal? International Airport rely on speedboats for resort transfers. For resorts in the far-flung atolls though, speed boat transfers are out of the question. Not only are the distances too great, the length of time is beyond what most people would comfortably tolerate ? three-hour boat-transfer anyone?
Enter Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT). With a fleet of 22 de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft, piloted by a roster of 77 pilots, MAT services 44 of the 97 resorts in operation today. From humble beginnings in 1993, MAT has grown to become the largest seaplane operator in the world, with an annual carrying capacity of 400,000 people. While the Twin Otter is the success story of Maldives aviation, every pilot knows that a seaplane is only as good as the floats it lands on.
Given the importance of seaplane float design in daily aircraft operations, MAT recently partnered with Wipaire for the provision of 20 sets of Wipline 13000 floats as part of MAT?s fleet restructuring-program. From an operational perspective, the Wipline 13000 float was a logical choice.
From a flying perspective the Wipline 13000, with its deep keel, is ideally suited for the often-rough ocean conditions that pilots encounter throughout the Maldives. The deeper keel provides pilots with more ?cutting? ability, which assists with the aircraft?s stability during take-off and landing. Above water, the Wipline 13000 provides crew and passengers with a wide, flat top, making the float a user-friendly surface for embarking and disembarking passengers.
To date, MAT has retrofitted 10 aircraft with the new floats and implemented a mandatory training program to ensure pilots are familiar with the handling characteristics of the Wipline 13000 floats.