TMA welcomes new aircraft, expands seaplane fleet to 56

Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) on Tuesday welcomed another aircraft to its fleet, as the Maldives’ main seaplane operator wraps up a major expansion drive.

With the Twin Otter aircraft, which landed at the Maldives’ main Velana International Airport Tuesday evening, TMA will have 56 aircraft operating on regular flights throughout the Maldivian archipelago, making it the largest seaplane operator in the world.

“It is a pleasure to welcome our newest member to the fleet. We are 56 strong today,” the airline said, in an announcement.

TMA had in September announced plans to add four additional seaplanes to its fleet, with the first of the four arriving in September. Another two followed in December.

TMA started in 1989 as a company operating a helicopter fleet under the name Hummingbird Island Helicopters.

Eight years later, the name was changed to Hummingbird Island Airways, as the first seaplane was added to the fleet. The transition to a seaplane-only fleet was completed in 1999. A year later, the name Trans Maldivian Airways came to be, and still today represents a synonym for connecting the Maldives islands.

In February 2013, Blackstone, one of the world’s leading investment and advisory firms, acquired controlling stakes in TMA and its sole competitor Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT), and merged the two under the TMA brand.

A consortium led by US-based Bain Capital and Chinese conglomerate Tempus Group had in 2017 bought TMA from Blackstone for around USD 550 million.

Seaplane is the preferred mode of transport between the main Velana International Airport and dozens of resorts, especially those located in the outer atolls.

A new seaplane terminal being developed at the Velana International Airport is expected to come into operation in May 2020.

The terminal, which costs USD 40 million, is part of a USD 800 million mega project to expand and upgrade the Maldives’ main gateway to cater to at least seven million passengers per annum. The project also involves building a brand new runway and a new international passenger terminal, as well as other support facilities, including a fuel farm that can store 45 million litres and a 120,000 tonne cargo facility.

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