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At Male, passengers have not disembarked from 8Q-HIH yet, but AMEs prepare to insert fuel nozzles and ground crew hustle with outbound baggage while other Hummingbird staff rush to guide passengers to a waiting bus, often before the captain leaves his seat.

Seaplanes of three companies operate from bases at the midpoint of Male International AirportŐs Runway 18-36.

Coline Morton of Vancouver serves as first officer on HummingbirdŐs (Trans Maldivian AirwaysŐ) Twin Otters. She wears a standard company uniform and will share 50% of flying duties with the aircraft captain en route for a shutdown at Hakuraa Huraa, or ŇHakÓ, as indicated on the GPS.

Pilots land on the turquoise lagoons of atolls, such as the arm of this one south of Male. Often, resort owners must cut channels from the Indian Ocean into the calmer water to place their platforms.

The platform at Sun Island south of Male is usually stable, but in high winds it pitches dangerously. Passengers, such as this group from France, must be kept clear of wings and frequently directed into the airplane as quickly as possible after arriving in their dhoni transport.

Maintenance can be fatiguing in MaleŐs hot sun, but when AMEs remove Twin Otters such as 8Q-HIK from the water, they work non-stop to repair all defects and complete inspections. HIK was the latest addition to the fleet and, at an empty weight of 8,674 pounds, the heaviest.

Hills do not exist in the Republic of Maldives. Protective coral reefs surround every island, and spectacular underwater gardens in the Indian Ocean attract thousands of tourists year-round. Almost 100% reach their resort by de Havilland Twin Otter or Cessna Caravan. All floating platforms have two yellow canvas-covered boxes of emergency equipment.

First officer Kevin Hepp of Red Deer, Alberta, checks his next flight on the Mayfly. Ground hostess Aminath Waheedha, a native Maldivian, processes up to 900 passengers a day through HummingbirdŐs fleet of seaplanes.

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