Cape Air Gets Greenlight for Seaplanes

Ever since Cape Air’s CEO Dan Wolf was doing seaplane flight instruction on Cape Cod’s ponds over 35 years ago, launching a scheduled seaplane service has been a dream.

Starting this spring Cape Air, one of the busiest air carriers at Logan International Airport with 11 destinations out of Boston, will expand its operations in a unique way.

Cape Air received a trail approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency this month  to begin seaplane flights off East Boston’s shores to New York’s for one year.

The BPDA approval allows Cape Air to operate four flights a day between Boston and New York.

Wolf said Cape Air’s plans involve flying seaplanes in and out of Boston Harbor. Wolf explained that a lot of major cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver have been doing this for years now so it’s not a new concept.

Cape Air’s seaplanes will take off and land on the water just off Eastie’s shores near the Hyatt Boston Hotel and land at an already established seaplane dock on the East River in Manhattan near East 23th Street.

“It is relatively difficult to get from Downtown Boston to Midtown Manhattan,” said Cape Air’s Senior Vice President Andrew Bonney at a community meeting recently. “But with seaplanes from downtown to downtown you can reduce a three to four hour trip to just over an hour. So that’s really the genesis for this. So people ask why seaplanes? Well, with this plan you remove all the other parts of flying except the flying part.”

Bonney said commuters on seaplanes are not subjected to TSA security lines, ticket lines, luggage lines and other inconveniences that are usually part of flying. Seaplane passengers would simply arrive at a proposed dock in Southie’s Seaport District, board the seaplane, taxi out to the takeoff area near the Hyatt and then be on their way to New York City.

“And on the other end in New York it’s the same thing,” said Bonney. “We would land at the existing seaplane dock in Manhattan that has existed since the 1930s.”

The planes Cape Air would use, said Bonney, are the brand new Cessna Caravan nine-seat seaplane. Bonney said the single engine Cessna is a relatively quiet seaplane.

“We did a sound study because we wanted to know what the acoustic impacts would be to the surrounding area,” said Bonney. “The conclusion of the study was the impact would be minimal.”

Bonney said one key fact about seasplanes is that they can only operate in daylight because pilots must be able to see the surface of the water and horizon.

“There really isn’t the concern of aircraft waking you up at night…just not possible with seaplanes,” said Bonney. “They are small aircraft that are pretty high performance so when they take off they climb to altitude relatively quickly to mitigate sound impacts.”

The takeoff and landing base in the water off the Hyatt, explained Bonney, would be restricted by the FAA to only Cape Air operations.

“This is a private, restricted sea base,” said Bonney. “So you wouldn’t have to worry about other carriers using the area.”

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