A Single Otter, similar to the one to operate in Malta, landing in Canada. Photo: Airliners.net
The air link between Malta and Gozo is expected to be restored by May with the introduction of a seaplane to fly between the two islands.
A Maltese/Canadian company will operate the service from Grand Harbour to Mgarr, a mere 10-minute journey, The Times has learnt.
The price for the flight will be in the region of Lm10 per passenger and there will be some 13 flights per day each way.
The aircraft will land just outside Mgarr Harbour and then taxi in. The company is negotiating with the Malta Maritime Authority and the Gozo Ministry to find a suitable mooring spot for the floatplane.
The earmarked DeHavilland Single Otter aircraft is equipped with both floats and wheels, allowing it to come down on land or water, as well as having short take-off and landing capabilities. It can carry 14 passengers and will be captained by Canadian pilots.
The service will only be hampered by "extreme" weather conditions, especially south-westerly winds, sources said.
A free courtesy shuttle bus will operate from the airport to Grand Harbour and back.
The company is also planning to offer scenic tours around Malta and Gozo as well as targeting cruise liner passengers that visit for a few hours.
"The concept of taking off and landing in water is safe, innovative, and will surely create a huge interest in Malta both with locals and tourists," the sources said.
"The introduction of this service will also create a niche market for business travellers who can hop on a plane from the Valletta side of the harbour and land in Mgarr in 10 minutes flat."
The project was originally meant to get off the ground last May but the summer deadline was missed and the proprietors decided to postpone the project. The respective authorities - the Department of Civil Aviation, the MMA, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Gozo Ministry - are facilitating the company's application.
Two helicopter services to Gozo have so far ceased operations on the ground that the service was not feasible. High prices (a return ticket cost up to Lm50) meant there was low take-up for Spanish company Helisureste's service, which wound down last October.
A number of fixed wing light aircraft companies have since expressed their interest in re-establishing the air link but in an island of 26 square miles, the extension of the airstrip has always been a bone of contention for environmentalities.
A seaplane operated in Malta way back in 1915 thanks to the construction of a seaplane base in Kalafrana.