Cape Air, one of the busiest air carriers at Logan International Airport with 11 destinations out of Boston, is looking
to expand its operations in a unique way.
At last week’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) Cape Air Founder and CEO Dan Wolf said his company wants to begin landing seaplanes on the Boston Harbor in order to connect Boston to New York City.
“When Andrew Bonney, our senior vice president of planning, came to Cape Air 10 years ago he had this amazing idea of connecting Boston and New York in a really unique way,” said Wolf. “The idea involves flying sea planes (in and out of Boston Harbor). A lot of major cities having been doing this for years like Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver so it’s not a new concept.”
Bonney said the plan would call for Cape Air’s seaplanes to 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 Bonney. “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 that 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 a 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 seaplanes 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.”
Bonney said Cape Air plans to begin with a small number of flights. Bonney said the operation would be expensive to run so the company would start with three flights per day, see how it goes and then maybe expand to six to seven flights per day.
Some at last week’s JPNA meeting were concerned about now having an active seaplane operation so close to recreational community boating like Piers Park Sailing Center (PPSC).
“I spend a lot of time on the harbor and this proposed area (for takeoffs and landings) very much in the area PPSC kids use during the summer and these are not people on radios that are monitoring seaplane operation,” said JPNA member Andrew Gelling. “I’m just concerned about a decrease in access.”
However, Wolf, an avid sailor, believes that the area off the Hyatt and it’s footprint in the Harbor is so small that it would be hardly noticeable to the recreational sailors using the area.