Urban seaplane bases – a commercial aviation option?

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Source: en.wikipedia.org

A potential option that waterfront cities may wish to consider for increasing their available airport operational capacity is to add or expand a seaplane base. In many instances a seaplane base can be located in much closer proximity to the central business district and other key transportation nodes than an existing or proposed ground based aviation operation.

A river, lake, reservoir, bay, sound, inlet, harbor, channel, gulf, or other size-appropriate body of water could be used for establishing the seaplane base, provided the width and depth are sufficient, there is not excessive marine traffic, and no obstacles or obstructions hinder safe aircraft movements both on the water and in the air. Here is a weblink to the FAA standards.

Vancouver - Source: panoramio.com

Vancouver – Source: panoramio.com

In addition, the infrastructure and maintenance costs should be considerably less given the runways (water) already exist. Granted, in some northern climates, the runways freeze over in the winter months, but the option would be a viable alternative for much of the year. In certain locations, prolonged drought conditions could lead to temporary suspension of operations, as well.

Vancouver Seaplane Base Control Tower - Source: aircraftimages.net

Vancouver Seaplane Base Control Tower – Source: aircraftimages.net

Below is a surprisingly lengthy list of cities with public/private seaplane bases located in the United States and Canada. It is also surprising to this planner that cities such as Detroit and other large cities in Michigan, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, or Chicagoland do not have more (or any) seaplane facilities. Meanwhile, Indiana has more in urban seaplane settings than either Michigan or Illinois.

Tavares, FL - Source: c-spa.org

Tavares, FL – Source: c-spa.org

Whether seaplane bases are a viable commercial option for urban locations is unclear and would need more in-depth analysis. But it is clear that seaplane bases are a very useful for private and charter aviation. To the extent they reduce the usage of nearby commercial airports, the seaplane bases can increase the capacity and prolong the life of existing land based operations by diverting some traffic from the airport.

Lake Hood, Alaska - Source: en.wikipedia.org

Lake Hood, Alaska – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Those urban areas that lead the pack when it comes to having seaplane bases include:

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Duluth, Minnesota-Wisconsin
  • Lakeland, Florida
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • New York City, New York-New Jersey
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Ottawa, Ontario-Quebec
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Maine
  • Seattle-Tacoma, Washington
  • Twin Cities, Minnesota
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Warsaw, Indiana
  • Wheeling, West Virginia-Ohio


Cities With Seaplane Bases

  • Altamonte Springs (Orlando), Florida (2)
  • Amesbury (Boston), Massachusetts
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Angola, Indiana (6)
  • Anacortes, Washington
  • Annapolis, Maryland
  • Apple Valley (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Arnprior, Ontario
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey (2)
  • Auburndale (Lakeland), Florida
  • Augusta, Maine
  • Baie-Comeau, Quebec
  • Bangor, Maine
  • Barrie, Ontario
  • Beaver (Pittsburgh)., Pennsylvania
  • Belleview (Ocala), Florida
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Bemidji, Minnesota (3)
  • Big Lake (Anchorage), Alaska (5)
  • Brick Township (Tom’s River), New Jersey
  • Buffalo (Twin Cities), Minnesota (2)
  • Cantley (Ottawa, ON), Quebec
  • Chanhassen (Twin Cities), Minnesota (2)
  • Chester (Richmond), Virginia
  • Clarkston (Lewiston, ID), Washington (2)
  • Coeur D’Alene (Spokane, WA), Idaho
  • Colchester,(Burlington), Vermont (2)
  • Crystal Lake (Chicago), Illinois
  • Cumberland (Portland), Maine
  • Deerwood (Twin Cities), Minnesota (2)
  • Denmark (Portland), Maine
  • Dockton (Tacoma), Washington
  • Duluth, Minnesota (2)
  • Eagle River (Anchorage), Alaska
  • East Liverpool, Ohio
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Elkton (Wilmington, DE), Maryland
  • Enfield (Hartford), Connecticut
  • Eveleth (Duluth), Minnesota
  • Excelsior (Twin Cities), Minnesota (2)
  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Fairhope (Mobile), Alabama
  • Faribault, Minnesota
  • Flin Flon, Manitoba
  • Florence, Alabama
  • Florence, Oregon (2)
  • Folsom (Sacramento), California
  • Forest Lake (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Fort Frances, Ontario
  • Fort Langley (Vancouver), British Columbia
  • Fort McMurray, Alberta
  • Fort Myers, Florida
  • Fort St. John, British Columbia
  • Fox Lake (Chicago), Illinois
  • Freeport (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania (3)
  • Gardner, Massachusetts
  • Gig Harbor (Tacoma), Washington
  • Gladwyne (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania
  • Grand Rapids, Minnesota (2)
  • Gray (Portland), Maine
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • Groveland (Orlando), Florida
  • Gulf Shores, Alabama (2)
  • Haines City (Lakeland), Florida
  • Harrison Hot Springs (Vancouver), British Columbia
  • Harve De Grace, Maryland
  • Hibbing (Duluth), Minnesota (3)
  • Highlands, (New York City, NY) New Jersey
  • Hilton Head, South Carolina (2)
  • Houma, Louisiana
  • Huntsville, Ontario (3)
  • Inver Grove Heights (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • International Falls, Minnesota
  • Island Heights (Tom’s River), New Jersey
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Janesville, Wisconsin
  • Juneau, Alaska
  • Kamloops, British Columbia
  • Kendallville (Fort Wayne), Indiana (2)
  • Ketchikan, Alaska (3)
  • Kingston (Knoxville), Tennessee
  • Kissimmee (Orlando), Florida (3)
  • Kodiak, Alaska (2)
  • Lacombe (New Orleans), Louisiana
  • La Grange (Elkhart), Indiana
  • Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Lake Delton (Madison), Wisconsin
  • Lakeland, Florida
  • Lake Oswego (Portland), Oregon
  • Lake Wales (Lakeland), Florida
  • La Peche (Ottawa, ON), Quebec
  • Laval (Montreal), Quebec
  • Lino Lakes (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Little Ferry (New York City, NY), New Jersey
  • Lodi (Madison), Wisconsin
  • Los Banos, California
  • Maple Grove (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • McHenry (Chicago), Illinois
  • Methuen (Boston), Massachusetts
  • Miami, Florida
  • Middle Hero (Burlington), Vermont
  • Minneapolis (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Minnetrista (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Mission (Vancouver), British Columbia
  • Moline (Quad Cities), Illinois-Iowa
  • Montebello (Ottawa, ON), Quebec
  • Montreal, Quebec (2)
  • Mound (Twin Cities), Minnesota (2)
  • Moundsville (Wheeling), West Virginia
  • Nanaimo, British Columbia (3)
  • Napa, California
  • Naples (Portland), Maine (2)
  • Natrona Heights (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania
  • Nelson, British Columbia
  • New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • New Brighton (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Newburgh (Evansville), Indiana
  • New Martinsville (Wheeling), West Virginia
  • New York City, New York (2)
  • North Attleborough (Providence, RI), Massachusetts
  • North Hero (Burlington), Vermont
  • Northport, (Tuscaloosa), Alabama
  • Oconto (Milwaukee), Wisconsin
  • Oklawaha (Ocala)< Florida
  • Orange Park (Jacksonville), Florida
  • Orillia, Ontario (2)
  • Orlando, Florida (4)
  • Oroville, California
  • Oshkosh, Wisconsin
  • Ottawa, Ontario (2)
  • Oveido,(Orlando), Florida
  • Palmer (Anchorage), Alaska (4)
  • Panama City, Florida (2)
  • Parkersburg, West Virginia
  • Parry Sound, Ontario (5)
  • Peekskill (New York City), New York
  • Penticton, British Columbia
  • Peru (Kokomo), Indiana
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pitt Meadows (Vancouver), British Columbia
  • Plymouth (Boston), Massachusetts
  • Plymouth (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Pontiac (Detroit), Michigan
  • Pontiac (Ottawa, ON), Quebec
  • Port Sulphur (Lake Charles), Louisiana
  • Port Washington (New York City), New York
  • Poulsbo, (Seattle), Washington
  • Presque Isle, Maine
  • Prince Rupert, British Columbia (2)
  • Prior Lake (Twin Cities), Minnesota (2)
  • Quebec City, Quebec
  • Raymond (Portland), Maine (2)
  • Redding, California
  • Renton (Seattle), Washington
  • Ravenswood, West Virginia
  • Renfrew (Ottawa), Ontario
  • Riceboro (Savannah), Georgia
  • Ridgefield Park (New York City, NY), New Jersey
  • Riviere Blanche (Ottawa, ON), Quebec
  • Rockford (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Rockledge (Melbourne), Florida
  • Rumson (New York City, NY), New Jersey
  • Rutherford (New York city, NY), New Jersey
  • St. Cloud (Orlando), Florida
  • St. Mary’s Ohio
  • St.-Mathias (Montreal), Quebec
  • Saint Paul (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Sandford (Orlando), Florida
  • Sandpoint, Idaho
  • Santa Rosa Beach (Fort Walton Beach), Florida
  • Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (2)
  • Sausailito (San Francisco), California
  • Schenectady (Albany), New York
  • Seattle, Washington (2)
  • Selkirk (Winnipeg), Manitoba
  • Sept-Iles, Quebec (2)
  • Shoreview (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Sitka, Alaska
  • Skagway, Alaska
  • Slidell (New Orleans), Louisiana
  • Solon Springs (Duluth, MN), Wisconsin
  • South Hero (Burlington), Vermont
  • Spring Park (Twin cities), Minnesota
  • Spanish Fort (Mobile), Alabama
  • Standish (Portland), Maine
  • Stockton, California
  • Stoughton (Madison), Wisconsin
  • Sudbury, Ontario (2)
  • Sunbury (Williamsport), Pennsylvania
  • Syracuse (Warsaw), Indiana
  • Tacoma, Washington
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Tavares (Orlando), Florida (2)
  • Thompson, Manitoba
  • Thunder Bay, Ontario
  • Timmins, Ontario
  • Tiverton (Fall River, MA), Rhode Island
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Tullahoma, Tennessee
  • Tyngsboro (Lowell), Massachusetts
  • Valdez, Alaska
  • Val D’Or, Quebec
  • Vancouver, Briitish Columbia (3)
  • Venice (New Orleans), Louisiana (7)
  • Vernon (Kelowna), British Columbia
  • Victoria, British Columbia (2)
  • Warsaw-Winona Lake, Indiana (4)
  • Wasilla (Anchorage), Alaska (15)
  • Waterboro (Portland), Maine
  • Weirton, West Virginia
  • Wellsburg (Wheeling), West Virginia
  • Westport (Fall River), Massachusetts (2)
  • Wheeling, West Virginia
  • White Bear Lake (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  • Whistler (Vancouver), British Columbia
  • Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
  • Willow (Anchorage), Alaska (4)
  • Winfield (Kelowna), British Columbia
  • Winter Haven (Lakeland), Florida
  • Winter Springs (Orlando), Florida
  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
  • Zimmerman (Twin Cites), Minnesota
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4 Responses to Urban seaplane bases – a commercial aviation option?

  1. Emme says:

    Another well presented solution of sensible use of the same natural resources that attracted settlers to these geographical areas in the first place. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.


  2. Cave Johnson says:

    Here’s the thing. Seaplanes are lousy aircraft. Making an aircraft float is not very consistent with making it fly. You can do it, but its full of compromises on weight and drag. All you de Haviland Beaver fans will say that its a great plane. I would agree, but its great at what it does, which is a specialized thing. It’s ability to be a good float plane is a tribute to the ruggedness and versatility of the design. It does not proove the point that float planes are a transportation solution that is competitive with land-based aviation. That’s why seaplanes had their golden age at the birth of aviation. They made sense only when no one had a runway. Don’t get me wrong, they are cool to have. They make sense today in only two ways. The first is a recreational asset based on the coolness factor. The second is as a way to reach remote locations that do not have developed airfields. Don’t get me wrong. Watching seaplanes take off from Union Bay is cool, but when you need to go somewhere, you go to SeaTac.


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