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Tests start on seaplane services

Greek seaplane

Holiday tourists targeted in plans to for seaplane flights.

Seaplane services between the holiday islands of Greece are a step nearer as the go-ahead is given to test water runways at Greek ports in the Peloponnese. It paves the way to introduce seaplane services between many Greek Islands later this year, boosting services for tourists with a network of seaplanes operating between islands and between islands and ports on the Greek mainland.

The decision to test the operation of water runways for seaplanes was agreed at a meeting of the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Michalis Papadopoulos and the Peloponnese regional authority.

A joint statement suggested that seaplane services would be aimed directly at tourists and not be developed as an alternative to inter-island transport. The statement said: "Our goal is for seaplanes to form an alternative touristic product, not a new regular means of transportation."

The is not the first attempt to establish a seaplane network across the Greek Islands, In 2005, a total of 15 licences for water airports were issued under new laws and a pilot program was launched between islands in the Ionian Sea.

Bur seaplane companies pulled out in 2008, however, blaming the government for excessive red tape, endless legal problems and the failure to back plans for seaplane links to mainland Attica and notably to Athens.

New laws to ease the introduction of seaplane services were passed by the Greek parliament in April this year agreeing to issue licences to operate water airports to those companies able to submit a full technical report on the feasibility of services to the government.

Applications have already been submitted at several ports and harbours in the Greek island and on the Greek mainland including Heraklion and Rethymnon on Crete, the mainland ports of Volos, Patras and Lavrio, and the islands of Corfu, Skyros and Zante.

Once permits are granted, the port and harbour authorities can put out to tender any leases to seaplane companies to operate the water airports and provide seaplane services.

The Greek company Hellenic Seaplanes has already published mock-up designs of a new waterway launch pad on the holiday island of Kos and plans to operate scheduled flights from both islands, mainland ports and lakes where current transport links are difficult..

Plans include tourist flyover tours of the islands and a variety of excursion packages. It could also operate chartered flights for up to 19 passengers and cargo flights to some of the more remote Greek islands.

Talks have been held with around 200 Greek port authorities where seaplane services could be developed as has plans to fly from up to 100 destinations across the Greek Islands this year.

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