An aircraft that can take off and land on both land and water is known as a seaplane. These aircraft have a variety of civil and military uses. Certain seaplanes are capable of carrying out military, specialised missions, freight and passenger operations, firefighting, marine zone patrolling, environmental monitoring, and search-and-rescue missions.
Fortune Business Insights report on the Amphibious Aircraft Market 2021-2028 put the global market value of seaplanes at USD159 million (RM707.6 million) in 2020. The report projects that the global amphibious aircraft market size will reach USD358 million by 2028 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7% between 2021 and 2028. Market demand will be supported by a rising need for these aircraft for commercial use and the rising popularity of lightweight seaplanes.
Asia Pacific’s Seaplane Market Soars
In Asia Pacific, the market for amphibious aircraft has been growing significantly. Manufacturers of utility aircraft perceive a wide range of market potential for their products in the region, performing a wide range of civil, governmental, and military operations. Due to the anticipated increase in demand, international aircraft manufacturers are planning to invest in the production of unpressurized and amphibious aircraft.
Textron Aviation is eyeing the Asia Pacific market for its new Cessna 408 SkyCourier. The aircraft will be used for civilian purposes in amphibious situations.
Meanwhile, India has been working on enhancing its amphibious aircraft services. The Indian Civil Aviation Ministry and the Indian Ministry of Waterways have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to expand seaplane services across the nation. The ministries said that the necessary water aerodromes will be built by 2024 after 28 routes were selected for this purpose under the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) programme, which aims to connect small and medium cities with big cities through air service.
2021: Malaysia’s Very First Seaplane Manufacturing Project
In 2021, Malaysian company Delta Aerospace signed an MoU with NPO AeroVolga LLC and Aeronautique Design & Service Bureau (ADSB), Switzerland. All of the three companies are involved in the manufacturing of seaplanes. The MoU outlines terms of transfer technology and intellectual property necessary to produce the light amphibious aircraft known as the LA-8 Seaplane in Malaysia.
Delta Aerospace Sdn. Bhd. was incorporated in 2005, and is the first seaplane company in Malaysia. As an aviation-conversant organisation, Delta has identified a “true seaplane” as a solution. The company first started out by identifying an appropriate aircraft which led to a full analysis of available seaplane manufacturers in operation, narrowing it down to aircraft that could be operated effectively in an international environment and not be limited to only operating in perfect weather and smooth water.
The result of this detailed search was the LA-8 aircraft, an eight-seater amphibious aircraft. The company aims to operate in full term mode developing what is initially a final assembly, marketing, sale, and distribution, single aircraft product programme, into a multi-phase, multi-product within the next two years.
In 2021, Delta worked closely with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) and submitted the application for Validation of Type Certificate and Design Organisation Approval. Once approved, Delta will be eligible to apply for the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval in the U.S.A through the Bilateral Air Safety Agreement (BASA) set between CAAM and FAA. The certification will enable bilateral cooperation in a variety of aviation areas, including maintenance, flight operations, and environmental certification.
Delta’s first LA-8 aircraft arrived in Senai Port, Johor in March 2022. Delta’s team worked with the engineers from ADSB on training and assembling the aircraft. Delta is also bringing in a second seaplane: the Borey, a two-seater aircraft. The Borey is expected to arrive in Senai Port by August 2022.
In May 2022, Delta conducted a private viewing of its LA-8 amphibious aircraft for selected aviation enthusiasts in Johor. During the viewing, Delta inked several MoUs in aerospace technical training and maintenance, management, engineering support, and flight training.
In seaplane manufacturing, an MoU was signed to build an integrated seaplane manufacturing site in Linggi, Negeri Sembilan. On the marketing side, an MoU was signed to establish an air operator business in Malaysia and Singapore.
12MP Boost Malaysia’s Aerospace Players
With the support of the Malaysian Government, through MIDA, Delta will strengthen its position as a leading seaplane player in the region. Seaplanes will open new markets within the aviation business, intensify tourism, escalate accessibility and mobility, as well as contribute to Malaysia’s social and economic growth and enable increased connectivity around the region.
The aerospace industry is identified as one of the strategic industries propelling Malaysia into a high-technology trajectory. Under the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP), this industry is projected to generate RM30 billion in revenue and 30,000 job opportunities by 2025.
The Government is strategising its policies and initiatives to be aligned with the National Investment Inspirations (NIA) framework with a focus on improving industry capabilities and global competitiveness. MIDA will continue to be the strategic partner for new growth areas of businesses, seizing opportunities arising from the technologically revolution in this era.