REVITALIZING CITIES WITH SEAPLANES, Hironori Abe, Vice President of Aviation Company, Setouchi Holdings
The Japanese prefecture of Hiroshima, located along the Seto Inland Sea, is known for its natural beauty made up of mountainous landscape, sprawling valleys and a vast coastline. Hiroshima’s rich history dates back for centuries, and is home to a fascinating culture. Over the years, however, the prefecture lost many of its local citizens to burgeoning outside regions. To revitalize Hiroshima, Japanese firm Setouchi Holdings — subsidiary of shipbuilding company Tsuneishi Group, stepped in. The company, started by Tsuneishi Group’s owner Katsushige Kambara, aimed to revive the prefecture through tourism and, consequently, through the introduction of Setouchi Seaplanes, bringing convenient transportation and infrastructure to an overlooked, yet picturesque, region.
Setouchi Holdings is focused on aviation with three business segments — as owner of the US-based aircraft manufacturer Quest Aircraft (which builds the Kodiak 100), as a sales dealer for the Kodiak throughout much of the Asia-Pacific region, and as an operator of the Kodiak 100 seaplane by means of Setouchi Seaplanes. The Kodiak 100 sits at the forefront of Setouchi Holdings’ plans to invigorate the Hiroshima prefecture.
The Kodiak 100 is built in Sandpoint, Idaho in the northwestern region of the United States. Originally designed to be the ultimate humanitarian workhouse, the unique combination of robust construction and remarkable payload capability has resulted in many additional applications for the Kodiak, including float (amphibious and straight) operations, special missions, medevac, skydive and more. The owner-flown segment continues to gain momentum as well, particularly in the North American marketplace. The Kodiak’s rugged aluminum construction combines superior STOL performance and high useful load. It offers proven turbine reliability with the Pratt & Whitney PT6 turbine engine, has the ability to land and take off from unimproved surfaces and is capable of working off floats without structural upgrades. The Kodiak can take off in under 1,000 feet at full gross takeoff weight of 7,255 lbs and climb at over 1,300 feet per minute.
Setouchi Seaplanes, based at the Onomichi Floating Port in the city of Onomichi, has been operating this amphibious Kodiaks since August 2016, making the Kodiak the first seaplane to be in service in Japan in over 50 years. To date, there are five seaplane Kodiak 100s in Japan, used for various missions. Due to the success of the amphibious aircraft, Setouchi Holdings has since targeted the Philippines.
“We currently have one seaplane in the Philippines,” says Hironori Abe, Setouchi Holdings’ Vice President, who is leading the company’s expansion into the country. “We are working with a local partner who already has an air operator’s certificate (AOC). The main headquarter will be based in Manila, with additional operations in Battan, Subic and Palawan.”
The geographic layout of the Philippines, home to over 7,000 islands, makes the seaplane an ideal aircraft. Abe expects tourism, cargo and passenger transport to be the main mission segments on across the islands, which are currently faced with infrastructure difficulties, making transport challenging.
In 2018, Setouchi Holdings will add maintenance capabilities to their repertoire. And, by 2019, the partner company will be operating a training center for the Kodiak, continuing to focus on promoting the Kodiak within the Asia-Pacific region and Filipino community.
“My projection is at least 10 to 15 in the next year in the Philippines,” says Abe. “One plane has a lot of usage and there are already several runway strips in the country, making this a feasible goal.”
Outside of the Philippines, Setouchi Holdings Seaplanes has targeted the Maldives for seaplane operations. In terms of sales side of KODIAK, Setouchi Holdings sees a huge potential in Indonesia India, as well as the growing Mainland China market. “In Mainland China, the Kodiak 100 is represented by a different dealer distributor. Still, there are about 10 to 12 seaplanes in the country, with growing interest in this aircraft.”
The Kodiak 100’s efficiency and versatility, combined with low operating costs, has made it appealing to operators across the Asia-Pacific region.
In each country Setouchi Holdings expands to, Abe hopes to help revitalize the area, just as it has done for Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture. “Aviation is not only aviation, but it is also transportation,” explains Abe. “Where we bring transportation, further infrastructure is also implemented. There will be the development of boats, hotels, and tourism, in general.”
Having already checked off a success story with seaplanes in Hiroshima, the future for Setouchi Holdings and its seaplanes looks bright.