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Seaplane test flights carried out on Corfu

- by Andy Cornish

The first seaplane test flights in Greece have been carried out on the Ionian island of Corfu.

A 10-seater Quest Zodiac flew from Corfu Town harbour to neighbouring Paxi and other islands in the area.

The flights are another critical step in getting regular Greek island seaplane flights off the ground following seven years of setbacks.

But the seaplane test flights only show what unsatisfactory progress has been made so far in a project bogged down in Greek red tape and little hope of regular services next year.

The seaplane repeatedly took off and landed at the port of Corfu and destinations in nearby islands.

The flights were overseen by a consortium of Water Airports SA, K2 Smart Jets and two Japanese companies all hoping to get flights underway for the 2018 tourist season.

But business leaders admit it's a been long haul. K2 Smart Jets owner Andreas Karotsieri said: "Our goal is to begin operating flights immediately when the next tourist season starts, but that depends on whether state mechanisms, which are particularly slow, will work at corresponding speeds."

Little hope of that as the Greek government continues to limit licences and drag its heels.

Rivals, Hellenic Seaplanes SA, has been trying for five years to establish a waterway network top operate seaplane services to the Greek islands.

But it is faced with a hall of bureaucratic mirrors. A public consultation on the licensing of waterways ended in September 2016 but has not yet been discussed by the Greek Parliament.

Without a legal framework in place, there is little chance of private companies investing in waterway infrastructure which the Greek government now says must be publicly owned.

But public investment is at a snail's pace as officials get bogged down in approvals of expenditure, tender processing, policy changes, water and land surveys, risk assessments and ecological surveys.

In 2016 the government banned private waterways, despite companies pouring millions of euros into the project.

But with an insufficient number of public owned waterways to ensure sustainability for companies and a stable legal framework, seaplane services have little chance of taking off.

The Hellenic Seaplanes group has negotiated waterway concessions for many Greek islands including Skyros, Alonissos, Skopelos, Tinos, Patmos, Thassos and Chios.

Water Airports SA now has licences to operate seaplane bases in Corfu, Paxi and Patras and want to licence another 34 seaplane bases in the Ionian, Crete, Cyclades, Dodecanese and Saronic Gulf,

Immediate plans are to launch regular flights from Corfu next spring, but Hellenic Seaplanes were saying the same last year, and the year before that, and the year before ...