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Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases (2015)

Chapter: CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?

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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
×
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
×
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO What Is a Seaplane Base?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22148.
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8 CHAPTER TWO WHAT IS A SEAPLANE BASE? The term used to describe a body of water or private facility that is available to the public is “public use.” As it relates to an airport, public use means it is available for use by the general public without prior approval of the airport owner or operator (FAA Order 5010.4 1981; Advisory Circular 150/5200-35A 2010). “Private use” refers to any airport available for use by the owner only, or by the owner and other persons authorized by the owner (Advisory Circular 150/5200-35A 2010). For the majority of private SPBs listed in both the FAA database and Appendix B, the ownership is designated as being “privately owned.” In the case of SPBs, the term “privately owned” generally refers to the land facilities and not the waterway, as waterways fall under the control of a federal, state, or local government agency. In contrast, for a private-use land airport, a private owner actually owns the land on which the runways and taxiways are located. If a private owner makes his or her airport available to the public, then it becomes a public-use airport (albeit privately owned). In all but a few cases, the owner of a public-use land airport also owns or operates the facilities located on it. The same ownership of water and land facilities does not hold true for SPBs. HISTORY The history of seaplane development, commencing in 1910, is well documented. The history of the development of seaplane bases is not so well documented. In a telephone conversation on September 15, 2014, Rick Leisenring, curator at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammonsport, New York, indicated that when Curtiss developed the first pontoons to be used on an aircraft in the United States in 1911, he used an existing dock to place the aircraft into the water. At first, a beach area was all that was needed, though invariably a pilot usually got wet trying to maneuver and position an aircraft. With some exceptions, existing wooden boat docks were easily adapted to seaplane use, as evidenced by Glenn Curtiss’ first efforts. The first commercial airline operation in the United States began on January 1, 1914, when Tony Jannus, a 24-year-old pilot, formed the Tampa Air Boat Line and piloted a seaplane on scheduled commercial flights between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida (Kite-Powell 2014). Though the operation lasted only 4 months, it proved that the concept of commercial aviation was viable. The advent of World War I further promoted the value of seaplanes (Nicolaou 1998). As seaplane use increased, the construction or need for facilities to specifically accommodate seaplanes naturally followed. The development of seaplanes allowed for travel over large bodies of water and to remote inland rivers or lakes where con- struction of physical facilities made access impractical or impossible. Pan American Airways (Pan Am) championed the cause of specially constructed SPBs and elaborate terminal buildings for passengers and mail handling located near metropolitan areas (Age of Adventure n.d.). Pan Am was the forerunner to today’s international airlines. Its president, Juan Tripp, helped to promote the development of concrete ramps for amphibious use and the use of large floating docks with gangways or piers connecting them to the mainland, which laid the foundation for the future design of seaplane bases. As aircraft and engine technology progressed with the events of World War II, aircraft were able to travel farther. As a result, land airports gained prominence and more were constructed. In the United States, SPBs used for commercial purposes became secondary to land airports, and fell out of favor in the late 1950s (Nicolaou 1998). Figure 2 illustrates the effects on the international manufacture of new seaplane designs as land airports and wheeled aircraft gained prominence. However, the need and desire for access to remote areas continued for recreational use. Several of the SPBs included in the survey have been in operation for a long time, as shown in Table 2 {Q1}. Long Lake in Sinclair, Maine, was established in 1915 and Lake Hood in Alaska was established in the 1920s. One SPB (Renton, Washington) started with the Boeing Aircraft Company in 1932 after the manufacturer was selected as one of first air- mail carriers.

9 FIGURE 2 Year and number of new seaplane designs produced globally. (Source: FUSETRA Seaplane Database 2010. Used with permission.) TABLE 2 NUMBER AND TIME PERIOD IN WHICH SURVEYED SEAPLANE BASES WERE ESTABLISHED Source: SMQ Airport Services {Q1}. Note: Total number of SPBs is 31. FIGURE 3 Different types of seaplanes. (Credit: S. Quilty, SMQ Airport Services) SEAPLANE TYPES “Seaplane” is the term used to describe any aircraft that is designed to operate on water. Three general types of seaplanes are floatplanes, flying (hull) boats, and amphibians (Figure 3). A floatplane is an aircraft that has pontoons instead of wheels and

10 is often referred to as a straight floatplane. A flying boat is an aircraft whose fuselage acts as a boat hull with small outrigger pontoons used to help stabilize it. An amphibian seaplane is one that has retractable landing gear, allowing it to operate on land or water. Amphibians can have either pontoons or a hull for operation on the water and are often known as float amphib- ian or hull amphibian aircraft. No matter what type of seaplane it is, once it is on the water it becomes a vessel. This conforms to U.S. Coast Guard regulations (United States Coast Guard 2014). In the regulation, the word “vessel” includes every description of watercraft, including nondisplacement craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of water transportation. Addi- tional regulatory background is provided later in this chapter. An important note about vessels is that where boats and other watercraft are allowed, so too are seaplanes. Federal aviation regulation Part 91 requires pilots to give way to boaters [14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 91.115]. DEFINING A SEAPLANE BASE The term “seaplane base” has variable meanings and can lead to confusion when discussing licensing and permitting, capi- tal improvement, governmental financial assistance, maintenance, environmental responsibilities, or its public purpose. As described in the following paragraphs, it is important to note that seaplanes can access many different bodies of water and do not require the designation of an official SPB to operate on water. An official SPB designation provides for depiction on aeronautical charts and possible eligibility for funding assistance. The FAA’s definition of an airport is “an area of land or water that is used or intended to be used for the landing and takeoff of aircraft and includes its buildings and facilities, if any” (14 CFR 1.1). The airport definition includes landing areas developed for conventional fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and seaplanes (Foxx 2014). The inclusion of “its buildings and facilities” in the definition creates a challenge for the development and preservation of SPBs, especially in the areas of capital funding and public support, as explained later. A seaplane base is not defined in 14 CFR Part 1 Definitions. There is a definition in AC 150/5395-1A, which is “a dedicated area of water used or intended to be used for the landing and takeoff of seaplanes, water taxiing, anchoring, ramp service, possibly with shoreline, and onshore facilities.” The use of the words “possibly with shoreline, and onshore facilities” implies that a beaching or docking area and related facilities are not necessary for an SPB to exist. It is for this reason that the term “seaplane base” can cause confusion. The term “water operating area” is used in the same advisory circular to mean a designated area on a body of water deemed suitable to facilitate seaplane operations for landing, takeoffs, and water taxiing. Landside facilities are not inferred. The water operating area can be described by latitude and longitude coordinates, Notice to Airmen, or on a layout plan. Reasons to designate a water operating area include to avoid hazardous or unforeseen water obstacles, or to improve the approach or departure paths for aircraft. As with the ability of boats to traverse bodies of water, the absence of a dedicated or designated area does not restrict or exclude a seaplane from operating on a body of water, nor an SPB from being established. In FAA Order 7110.65V (Air Traffic Control 2014), the definition for a landing area mirrors the International Civil Aero- nautics Organization definition: “Any locality either on land, water, or structures, including airports/heliports and interme- diate landing fields, which is used, or intended to be used, for the landing and takeoff of aircraft whether or not facilities are provided for the shelter, servicing, or for receiving or discharging passengers or cargo.” Given these definitions, a water landing area can be an SPB, absent any land facilities. In the same FAA order, a “sea lane” is defined as a designated portion of water outlined by visual surface markers for and intended to be used by aircraft designed to operate on water. In AC 150/5395-1A, a distinction is made between a sea lane and a marked sea lane. The FAA order does not make that distinction. The AC identifies a sea lane as a defined path within a water oper- ating area dedicated for the landing and takeoff run of seaplanes along its length. A marked sea lane is defined as a sea lane that has its four corners identified by visual markers, such as by buoys. Absent the markers, a sea lane can still exist, but obstacle clearance is not assured. In a meeting on November 19, 2014, SPA Executive Director Steven McCaughey noted that seaplane pilots gener- ally prefer to not have a sea lane marked, as it reduces their operating flexibility given winds and aircraft operating requirements. A sea lane’s visual markers allow for an FAA assessment of approach, departure, and traffic pattern obstacles because there is a defined point for the beginning and end of the landing area. Flight path obstacle evaluation is conducted under 14

11 CFR Part 77 Safe, Efficient Use, and Preservation of the Navigable Airspace. Under Part 77, an SPB is considered to be an airport “only if its sea lanes are outlined by visual markers” (14 CFR 77.3). If an SPB operator seeks to develop a seaplane base layout plan (SBLP) per AC 150/5395-1A, a diagram depicting a sea lane will allow for the FAA to make an evaluation of Part 77 obstacle surfaces. Another potential source for the confusion in defining what constitutes a seaplane base is found in AC 150/5200-35A— Submitting the Airport Master Record in Order to Activate a New Airport. The instructions for entering data that identifies the owner of a proposed SPB include the following: “If the landing area is a seaplane base, enter the name of the owner of the property on which the shore facility is established” (Advisory Circular 150/5200-35A 2010). According to the instructions, an SPB must have a shore facility. But that is not always the case. This requirement helps to explain why water landing areas may not be registered in the FAA database, or are registered to a private owner located on a public waterway, especially in remote areas. Another reason an SPB may not be listed in the database is because it does not meet the level of activity criteria. One example to help illustrate the confusion of what may constitute an SPB is Lake Union, Washington, adjacent to the city of Seattle. A review of FAA Form 5010 Airport Master Record data shows both Kenmore Air Harbor and Seattle Seaplanes listed as SPBs—W55 and 0W0. The W55 master record identifies a 5,000-ft water landing area in Lake Union with an SPB listed as Kenmore Air Harbor. A private individual, the chairman of Kenmore Air Harbor, Inc., is listed as the owner. The master record for 0W0 identifies a 9,500-ft water landing area in Lake Union with the airport listed as Seattle Seaplanes and the private owner of Seattle Seaplanes as owner of the SPB. The issue is that neither of the private operators listed have ownership of the associated water landing area, as they are on a public lake that falls under the purview of the state of Washington, with the city of Seattle having oversight of operational activity. In the example cited, the SPB owners identified on FAA’s Form 5010 refers to ownership of the land facilities and not that of the water landing area. This would be similar to the owner of a private fixed-base operator (FBO) at a city-owned land airport being listed as the owner of the airport. It is easy for the private commercial operators to be misconstrued as the owners of the public waterways because of the master record listing. Other examples are seen at two different public-use SPBs. One is an Alaskan lake that is open to the public but where the water’s edge is surrounded by private-use landowners. Many seaplane pilots land and take off in the lake, but they are based at individual private-use lake residences. No public seaplane services are available, but the water landing area is listed as a public-use SPB because one of the lake lot landowners registered it with the FAA. The other example is an SPB whose Form 5010 lists a private individual on a public-use lake who allows seaplane pilots to use his privately owned dock. The SPB exists in FAA records because an active seaplane pilot on the lake had taken the effort to register it. The active pilot then sold his property. No deactivation of the SPB using FAA Form 7480-1 was undertaken. The new owner, who does not have a seaplane, has continued to send in the annual FAA registration form because he supports sea- plane operation. The lake and water landing area are public use and continue to be shown on aeronautical charts. At any time, the new owner could discontinue the registration, make the dock private use, and deactivate the SPB. In doing so, the lake is still available for seaplane operations, though it would be removed from aeronautical charts and the FAA database registry. The last example illustrates that if an SPB is listed as officially “closed,” the waterway may still remain available for use at a pilot’s own risk because it is a public-use body of water. This relationship contributes to the confusion about the term “seaplane base.” To better understand what constitutes an SPB, one can reference the Arizona State Aviation Needs Study [Arizona State Aviation Needs Study (SANS) 2000]. The SANS describes seaplane facilities as being of two types: seaplane bases and sea- plane landing areas. Seaplane bases have a resident operator who provides commercial services such as flight instruction, sightseeing flights, aviation fuel, or aircraft maintenance. Seaplane (or water) landing areas are designated bodies of water on which seaplanes can operate but where no seaplane-specific facilities are available. The SANS study then lists the following SPBs as active in 2000: Lake Havasu Seaplane Base Lake, Lake Mead Seaplane Landing Area, Lake Roosevelt Seaplane Landing Area, and Lake Powell Seaplane Landing Area. In a 2008 update to the SANS, none of the SPBs were subsequently listed. A search of SPA’s 2013 Water Landing Directory, which receives information from local pilots and resources, reported the following lakes to have seaplane activity: Lake Havasu Seaplane Base (LaPlaca Flying Service), Lake Mead Seaplane Landing Area, Lake Mohave, Lake Roosevelt Seaplane Landing Area, Lake Powell Seaplane Landing Area, Mormon Lake, and Upper Lake Mary. In a telephone conversation on December 22, 2014, Kenneth Potts, A.A.E.,

12 airport grants manager with the Arizona Department of Transportation, said the reason was unclear as to why the previous four SPBs were no longer listed, other than that they are not listed in the NPIAS, though he indicated that the Arizona SASP does include non-NPIAS airports. Potts indicated that the state would probably take a closer look at SPBs in the next SASP update. OWNERSHIP OPTIONS Based on the literature search and the previous discussions, the term “seaplane base” therefore includes the following possibilities: 1. A body of water and the land surrounding it is privately owned. Seaplane operators are publicly allowed by the private owner to use the waterway or a land facility. 2. A body of water is publicly owned, but the land surrounding it is privately owned. The waterway is public use, but the land facilities may be privately owned and open to the public, or privately owned and private use. 3. A body of water is publicly owned and open to the public, and a government agency provides a docking area or facility. This ACRP report focuses on public-use SPBs and includes all three scenarios. The majority of public-use SPBs in the United States are similar to privately owned land airports that are open to the public. The SPB landing, takeoff, and docking areas are available as public use, but the land and facilities are privately owned and operated or leased to a private operator, such as a private business marina or individual docking area. An example is the SPB at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It is listed as being owned by the city. A note in the FAA’s Airport/Facility Directory lists the docks and office buildings as being owned by a private individual (Airport/Facility Directory Northwest U.S. 2014). The individual is then under contract to the city to manage the SPB for the city. In Indiana, many of the lakes available for seaplane operation are owned and operated under the authority of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). However, of the 22 seaplane bases listed in Indiana, only one has a public landing area operated by DNR (Water Landing Directory 2011). The other lakes either have no facilities or have private docks owned by marinas, resorts, or individuals. These types of arrangements have implications for the development and preservation of SPBs throughout the United States. An exception to the public ownership of SPB facilities is the state of Alaska. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) owns and operates a large number of SPBs along with their related dock facilities. According to Verne Skagerberg of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in a telephone conversation on September 10, 2014, the department will, on occasion, contract with a local individual or firm to oversee operations if needed. Also, a number of SPBs are listed in the FAA database as being in the public domain. This means they are available for use by the public but that no one individual can make claim to them. There are few privately owned waterways and few publicly owned SPB landside facilities. The former is because of the long-standing legal oversight of waterways by the federal government for commercial purposes on navigable waters, coupled with laws protecting the waterway environment. The few publicly owned SPBs (with the exception of Alaska) are the result of the historical development of seaplane operations by private industry, when private companies owned the land and constructed docks, ramps, and developed land areas. Ownership of a river, lake bed, or the lands between high and low watermarks vary according to federal or state law. The SPB at Tavares, Florida, is an example of one of the few waterways that is controlled by a municipality (see chapter seven). The city’s property line includes the northern half of Lake Dora, which is where the water landing area is located. Municipal airports with water landing areas, such as New Iberia, Louisiana, is another example. Some lakes have homeowner or lake associations that seek, have certain rights, or are able to exercise control of activities on a body of water. One last example of possible confusion surrounding the definition of an SPB is found in CFR Part 139. Part 139 is the regulation that requires an airport to have an operating certificate issued by the FAA in order to be served by scheduled air carrier aircraft with more than nine seats. While FAA’s basic definition of an airport includes an SPB, under Part 139 the FAA defines an airport as “an area of land or other hard surface, excluding water, that is used or intended to be used for the landing and takeoff of aircraft, including any buildings and facilities” (14 CFR 139.5; emphasis added). This means a Part 139 airport operating certificate can be issued only under the regulation to a land airport.

13 Because the definition of what constitutes a seaplane base and who owns it is unclear, clarification about SPB ownership was sought in the literature, as it has implications for the development and preservation of SPBs in the United States. In Compilation of State Airport Authorizing Legislation, the author writes that the laws of all states provide for a number of common governmental structures that may be used to own and operate an airport (Howick 2012). The structures are (1) direct state ownership and operations, (2) state authorities and corporations, (3) state compacts (multijurisdictional), (4) municipal airports, and (5) private operators. The report goes on to explain how an airport under state jurisdiction has the authority to be owned and operated by different authorized political subdivisions. In Alaska, four common ownership and operational arrangements have been established for the construction and develop- ment of a new SPB: 1. A public entity constructs, owns, and operates the facility. 2. A public entity constructs and owns but contracts with a private operator. 3. A private operator builds the facility on public land, operates it for a period of years, and returns the facility to the public owner at the end of that term. 4. A condominium concept where seaplane owners have ownership rights to a slip and other common assets in a private seaplane facility. (Economic Feasibility Study of a New Floatplane Facility Located in Anchorage, Alaska 2008). Table 3 identifies the different organizational structures that own or oversee seaplane bases in the United States as culled from the SPB operators that responded to the survey {Q2, Q3} and from the FAA database (“AirportIQ5010” 2014). Some SPBs have well-developed land facilities, though the majority do not. TABLE 3 LIST OF PUBLIC-USE SEAPLANE BASE OWNERSHIP TYPES IN THE UNITED STATES STATES OTHER THAN ALASKA ALASKA 14 MUNICIPALITY – City 12 CITY 3 MUNICIPALITY – County 3 BOROUGH 3 MUNICIPALITY – City & County 3 CITY & BOROUGH 4 MUNICIPALITY – Town 1 COMMUNITY 2 AIRPORT AUTHORITY 1 NATIVE CORPORATION 3 PORT 1 STATE – Department of Fish & Game 1 PARISH 41 STATE – DOT & Public Facilities 1 STATE – CA Bureau of Parks & Recreation 1 STATE – Division of Lands 1 STATE – CA Dept. of Water Resources 16 STATE – Dept. of Natural Resources 1 STATE – CA State Land Commission 14 STATE – Public Domain 1 STATE – Hawaii 4 FEDERAL – U.S. DOI – National Park Service 1 STATE – LA DOT & Development 1 FEDERAL – U.S. DOI – Fish & Wildlife Service 1 STATE – ME DOT 1 FEDERAL – U.S. DOA – Forest Service 1 STATE – NE DOT 1 FEDERAL – U.S. DOC – Nat’l Marine Fisheries 1 STATE – Ohio Division of Parks & Recreation 27 PRIVATE 5 FEDERAL – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 68 PRIVATE 106 Subtotal + 127 Subtotal = 233 TOTAL Source: “AirportIQ5010” (2014). Note: Total does not equal 247 SPBs found in the 2013/14 AOPA directory because four airports were determined to no longer be seaplane bases through study inquiry and 17 were not found in the current FAA 5010 database managed by GCR, Inc. DOI = Department of the Interior; DOA = Department of Agriculture; DOC = Department of Commerce.

14 PUBLIC ROLE AND PURPOSE SPBs function in a number of different roles, and they serve a number of different purposes and uses. Seaplanes can operate in highly diverse environments, from congested airspace to unimproved remote locations. Similar to small GA airports and backcountry rural airstrips, a number of issues may impair or reduce seaplane operations. Those issues are described further in chapter five and throughout this study. Role The FAA defines a general aviation airport as a public airport that is located in a state and that, as determined by the Secretary of Transportation, does not have scheduled service or has scheduled service with less than 2,500 passenger boardings each year (FAA Modernization and Reform Act 2012). A commercial service airport is one that receives schedule or unscheduled air service and has enplanements or boardings of more than 2,500 passengers. The majority of SPBs are general aviation. A number of Alaskan airports are nonprimary commercial services. Only one SPB is listed as a primary commercial service airport (Lake Hood, Alaska). A primary commercial service airport is one that enplanes more than 10,000 passengers, while a nonprimary commercial service airport is one that enplanes between 2,500 and 10,000 passengers. SPBs help to provide connections to the larger aviation system by providing access to their respective communities—a role consistent with the goals of the NAS. SPBs support commerce while also serving many functions such as access to medical flights, search and rescue, disaster relief, aerial firefighting, law enforcement, environmental and geological research, fish and wildlife conservation, and recreational use. Under a national study, an effort was made to better identify the types of aeronautical functions GA airports provide in serving the public interest (General Aviation Airports 2012). Commonly referred to as the ASSET Report, it identified four new general aviation airport categories: National, Regional, Local, and Basic (Figure 4). FIGURE 4 Classification of general aviation airports in the GA ASSET Report. (Source: General Aviation Airports: A National Asset 2012) The classifications are based on existing activity and will help the FAA in its planning efforts under the NPIAS. A total of 38 SPBs are listed in the NPIAS. Under the ASSET study, no SPBs were listed in the National or Regional roles. Four SPBs are listed in the Local category and 20 are listed in the Basic category. Thirteen SPB facilities remain unclassified because of minimal activity and inadequate data (Asset 2: In-Depth Review of the 497 Unclassified Airports 2014). As part of a SASP, a state aviation agency may recognize the importance of SPBs through a different classification scheme. For instance, the state of Washington classifies its airports according to the following roles (Washington State Department of Transportation 2011). Class A—Commercial Service Airports Class B—Regional Service Airports

15 Class C—Community Service Airports Class D—Local Service Airports Class E—Rural Essential Airports Class F—Seaplane Bases Fundamentally, an SPB serves as a transition point for seaplane operators. The transition can be from air to water and vice versa, and from water to land and vice versa. An SPB allows for seaplanes to safely take off and land on water, water taxi to and from a dock or beach area, and access land facilities for passenger processing, maintenance, and storage. Some SPBs support the transition role of seaplanes from water to land and vice versa by having lifts or dollies that allow for the removal and installation of pontoons or wheels on aircraft. Purpose This report highlights three major purposes or uses for seaplane bases. The first, evidenced mostly in the San Juan County area of Washington State and by the whole of Alaska, is for basic access to the NAS. The NAS is part of the overall transpor- tation system in the United States. San Juan County has limited access to transportation because it is wholly comprised of islands. Boats, ferries, and aircraft are their lifeline to the continent. The second basic purpose of SPBs is to serve the recreational needs of pilots and passengers. Seaplanes combine the rec- reational aspects of water usage combined with a flexibility of accessing more than one body of water. An SPB’s third basic purpose is the contribution it can provide to the local economy, whether that contribution is as a basic necessity for transporting persons or cargo, or to serve as an attraction for tourism or business. A number of public-use SPBs are actually sporting or hunting lodges that rely on seaplanes to bring customers to their remote location. A study evaluating the possibility of a new SPB in Alaska summarizes several purposes for them (Economic Feasibility Study of a New Floatplane Facility Located in Anchorage, Alaska 2008). 1. Access to National Aviation System 2. Business 3. Pleasure/recreation 4. Employment 5. Tourism 6. Sightseeing 7. Flight instruction and training 8. Medical evacuation 9. Aerial photography. An SPB, like any other general aviation airport, can support many types of activities. Table 4 identifies the different uses general aviation airports provide and the percentage of use as reported in the NPIAS data (Foxx 2014). When asked what purposes their SPBs serve, ACRP survey respondents echoed some of the same uses as the FAA study (Figure 5) {Q4}.

16 TABLE 4 TYPES AND PERCENTAGE OF ACTIVITIES AT GENERAL AVIATION AIRPORTS LISTED IN THE NPIAS Category Percent General Aviation Use Personal 33.5 Instructional 15.3 Corporate/Executive 9.7 Business 8.7 Aerial Observation 5.4 Other 5.2 Aerial Application 3.9 Other Work Use 1.1 External Load (Rotorcraft) 0.9 Aerial Other 0.8 Sightseeing 0.7 Air Medical 0.4 SUBTOTAL General Aviation Use 85.6 On-Demand Federal Aviation Regulation Part 135 Use Air Taxi and Air Tours 11.4 Part 135 Air Medical 3.0 SUBTOTAL Part 135 Use 14.4 TOTAL ALL USES 100.0 Source: NPIAS, Foxx (2014). Note: “Other” is defined as positioning flights, proficiency flights, training, ferrying, sales demonstrations, etc. FIGURE 5 Purpose and use of seaplane bases cited by survey respondents. Note: Respondents selected multiple purposes as they applied to their SPB. (Source: SMQ Airport Services {Q4}) The survey for this report sought to identify the reasons each SPB was established {Q5}. A variety of factors affect the location of an SPB. In one case, a local oil company that used seaplanes requested that the city establish a base. In another case, recreational or commercial pilots requested to have a waterway formally recognized for their use to either conduct flight instruction or provide service to a resort or sporting lodge. Two cities sought to develop their waterfront areas for economic and recreational value and determined that an SPB would enhance those purposes. Twenty-one SPB locations are geographi-

17 cally affiliated with a city, village, or town, while another 10 are remote from a city or town and serve primarily as access to a recreational area or a sport/hunting lodge. Twenty-four of the 31 SPBs in the survey were designed solely to serve seaplanes; two were designed primarily as marinas that later accommodated seaplanes; and five were designed to accommodate both seaplanes and boats {Q6}. In an open-ended question asking the reasons pilots choose to use or visit their SPB, operators cited the following wide range of responses, followed by the number of responses (Note: respondents identified multiple purposes that may apply) {Q7}. 1. Convenience or only SPB available in the area (11) 2. Availability of fuel (7) 3. Commercial business (lodge, resort, client drop-off, supply pick-up) (5) 4. Recreational opportunities (4) 5. Tourism/sightsee/attend events/visit (4) 6. Hangars/tiedown/transient dock/security (4) 7. Location (3) 8. Training/instruction/rental (3) 9. Maintenance/ float change-out (3) 10. Restaurant/food (3). REGULATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES The establishment and operation of an SPB can have regulatory oversight from a number of different federal, state, and local governing agencies. Most bodies of water in the United States fall under the purview of the federal government or states. The different forms of ownership or control have implications for the development and preservation of SPBs, especially in the areas of construction, maintenance, operation, use, and promotion. The commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution creates the authority of the federal government to oversee navigable waterways that can be used to conduct interstate and foreign commerce. Bodies of water contained wholly within a state likely fall under state jurisdiction. However, a body of water’s capability for use and transport in commerce determines whether a navigable waterway is subject to federal jurisdiction. A body of water may be entirely within a state, yet be subject to federal oversight. Chapter II of 33 Code of Federal Regulations describes the authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to regulate navigable waters of the United States (33 CFR 329). As stated in Section 329.4, the definition of navigable waterway is Navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity. (33 CFR 329.4) This CFR definition applies specifically to the authority of the USACE. The Clean Water Act features an expanded defini- tion of waters of the United States as it applies to instances of environmental determinations. The definition for “waters of the United States” under the act is found in 33 CFR Part 328.3 (33 CFR 328.3). The USACE regulates the use, administration, and navigation of the navigable waters of the United States as public neces- sity may require for the protection of life and property (33 CFR 320). The act restricts the construction of piers and other structures along the shoreline or into the navigable waters of the United States unless a permit or other approval is obtained

18 from USACE (33 CFR 322). The USACE District Engineer grants permission for the construction or modification of an SPB on federal waters. A key aspect of seaplane operation is that once the aircraft is on the water, it is considered to be a vessel. This has conse- quences for the applicability of rules and regulations governing pilot operation and SPB use on the water. In the air, seaplane operation is regulated by the FAA under 14 CFR Part 91: General Operating and Flight Rules (14 CFR 91); Part 119: Certi- fication: Air Carriers and Commercial Operators (14 CFR 119); and Part 135: Operating Requirements: Commuter and On Demand Operations and Rules Governing Persons on Board Such Aircraft (14 CFR 135). The responsibility of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is to promulgate, administer, and enforce rules and regula- tions governing the safety and life of persons and property on waters subject to federal jurisdiction. The USCG publishes navi- gation rules (Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook 2014) that specifically define a seaplane as any aircraft designed to maneuver on the water and therefore as a vessel. The USCG district commander grants permission for an SPB to operate on federal waters and for the construction and operation of navigation aids. For non-navigable waterways located on federal lands, permits may be issued by numerous agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service (36 CFR 1; 36 CFR 3). A number of regulatory and environmental laws affect the development and preservation of SPBs, such as the following: • U.S. National Invasive Species Act of 1996 • Clean Water Act of 1972 • Oil Pollution Act of 1990 • Federal Water Pollution Control Act • Nonindigenous Species Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 • Clean Water Act as amended by Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act • Hazardous Materials Transportation Act • Magnuson Act of 1976 • Shore Protection Act • Endangered Species Act • Marine Mammal Protection Act. Despite various environmental issues that could be of concern to SPB operators, 15 operators expressed none as a concern for them {Q8}. Seven respondents expressed concerns about fluctuating water levels and its effect on erosion, aquatic vegeta- tion, weed growth, or fish spawning. Four individuals were concerned with the water quality in and around the dock area as a result of potential fuel or oil spillage. Birds and other wildlife were a concern to only two individuals. One respondent each cited invasive species or noise as a concern. SUMMARY The history of seaplane development is well documented. However, sparse information is available on the history of SPB development. An SPB is defined as a dedicated area of water used or intended to be used for the landing and takeoff of seaplanes, water taxiing, anchoring, ramp service, possibly with shoreline, and onshore facilities. This definition can cause confusion when discussing licensing and permitting, capital improvement, governmental financial assistance, maintenance, environmental responsibilities, and public purpose, because a mix of SPB ownership options exist. Most waterways are owned by governmental entities, while the land facilities are often privately owned or operated. SPBs function in a number of different roles, and they serve a number of different purposes and uses. An SPB is gen- erally considered by the FAA to fulfill the role of a general aviation airport with a focus mainly on providing specialized services that scheduled airline service cannot provide. Fundamentally, the role of an SPB is to serve as a transition point for seaplane operators. This report highlights three major purposes or uses for SPBs—to provide basic access to the NAS, to serve the recreational needs of pilots and passengers, and to make a contribution to the local economy through various commercial activities. Like any other GA airport, an SPB can support many types of activities. Recreational use is the most commonly cited. However, in Alaska and other remote areas where alternate transport modes are limited or nonexistent, SPBs and seaplane activity serve as a lifeline for the community to connect to the NAS.

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Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases Get This Book
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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 61: Practices in Preserving and Developing Public-Use Seaplane Bases reviews current practices in developing and preserving public-use seaplane bases throughout the United States. The report reviews and presents information on the planning process, design considerations, permits, regulatory requirements, and facility and service needs of seaplane bases.

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