Captains on the seas | Monocle

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Maldivian Air Taxi began operations 19 years ago after Lars Erik Nielsen, its Danish founder, decided that inter-island transport in the Maldives should be easier. The airline is now the largest domestic air operator in the Maldives and has become an integral part of the $600m (€458m) tourism industry. “It’s key to be able to get to these places and seaplanes are really the only way,” says Fredrik Groth, MAT’s general manager.

In a lagoon adjacent to Malé Airport, a dedicated fleet of red and white Twin Otter planes gently roll in the surf. They shuttle passengers to outlying islands on up to 200 short hops a day. Regular pilot duties involve constantly washing salt water off the planes to prevent corrosion, landing on ocean waves and strategically positioning fuel at outstations.

It’s been crucial that they can do all of this while maintaining an impeccable safety record. But Fredrik Groth says there’s another factor to their success: people love seaplanes. “It’s going back to old-time flying where it was a little bit adventurous and fun.”

Maldivian Air Taxi facts:

Fleet: Number of aircraft – 21; DHC-6 Twin Otters on floats (Twin Otters can be configured with wheels, skis or floats).

Staff: 39 captains, 42 co-pilots; 50 per cent Maldivian, 50 per cent international, including many Canadians.

Uniform: Crews fly in bare feet and shorts.

Seating: 17 to 18 seats but 14 passengers maximum per flight with luggage.

Entertainment: In-flight magazine, two issues per year.

Number of routes: Between 150 and 200 short trips daily; carrying 450,000 flyers a year.

Average aircraft use: Seven hours per day.

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