Community Meetings

Seaplane Docking Trial Approved at Long Wharf in Downtown Boston

Cape Air received final approval for a one-year trial to use Boston Waterboat Marina located at 66 Long Wharf for docking purposes. The move comes just after the FAA and Coast Guard authorized seaplane flights between Boston Harbor and New York’s East River.

Releasing a memo this week, the Boston Planning and Development (BPDA) Board voted in favor of amending the license agreement held with Boston Waterboat Marina (BWM). BWM currently uses approximately 250 square feet of land and approximately 96,625 square feet of water sheet on the northside of Long Wharf.

The amendment will allow for short-term docking, passenger loading and disembarking of the seaplanes over a one-year trial period. Flights will be limited to four scheduled daily trips. Cape Air will be the sole service provider during this pilot program period. The airline and the BWM must meet on a monthly basis with abutters – including ferry operators and other affected parties to discuss any potential issues.

Each seaplane can carry nine passengers. In New York, the planes will dock at 23rd Street in Manhattan and flying time would be about one hour.

Seaplanes will not be permitted to dock overnight at Long Wharf and there will be no on-site fueling. BPDA board member Ted Landsmark questioned where fueling would take place and if an appropriate site had in fact been chosen with Dennis Davis, Deputy Director for Commercial Leasing and Industrial Development responding that none had been chosen as of yet.

Flight schedules will be subordinate to existing ferry schedules, with planes required at all times to yield the right of way to ferry traffic in order to ensure no interruptions or delays in service.

At an information session held in January, many in attendance had questioned the logistical and operational feasibility of using three moorings in the mooring field between the harbor and the dock, which would provide an informal “channel,” keeping seaplanes clear of maritime fairways and approaches.

Cape Air was also repeatedly questioned on quality of life issues such as noise levels, with Senior Vice President Andrew Bonney citing City ordinance compliance and a successfully completed sound study. Safety had also been a concern including the threat of accidents such as collisions at sea. Cape Air CEO Dan Wolf repeatedly stating the company’s track record and due diligence.

This information session was followed up with an appearance before the WDC (Wharf District Council) in May, where similar issues were raised. Cape Air had been hoping to begin operations in summer, but an official schedule has yet to be released.