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Noise Abatement

Each summer residents from communities all over Puget Sound call out for relief from aircraft noise. Not only do residents leave their windows open and spend more time outdoors but private and commercial seaplane and landplane aircraft operations reach a peak of activity this time of year. This results in a dramatic increase in aircraft noise complaints. A few go directly to the FAA at both local and regional levels. Some go to our local elected officials and some to our congressmen. Kenmore Air probably fields the greatest number of these at an average of 5-7 calls a week in August. This summer it has been more than usual.

  1. Edmonds to Carkeek Park and Ship Canal-Noise and Overflight complaints:
  • Crossover the shoreline inbound to Lake Washington or Lake Union a minimum of 1,500msl- preferably 2,000msl.
  1. Lake Forest Park Shoreline south to Union Bay and University District-Noise and Overflight complaints: 
  • Cross over the western shoreline of Lake Washington outbound to Puget Sound a minimum of 1,500 msl-preferably 1,800msl. 
  • Reduce climb power settings to cruise if feasible when crossing the shoreline.
  1. Lake Union Ship Canal- North Magnolia (south of the canal near locks) and Shilshole Marina (Sunset West Condominiums) Noise and Overflight:

Kenmore’s "pilot bulletins", monthly pilot newsletter, and daily e-mail systems devote a great deal of time to these issues as they arise. In addition, our initial and recurrent pilot training programs cover these noise issues in depth. 

Clearly, Kenmore’s flight activity on Lake Union and Lake Washington account for a great number of these calls but at least 50%, are attributable to other seaplanes. We know this because of the time of the complaint and our knowledge of where our aircraft are. We are hopeful that all of us as private and commercial pilots recognize the need to be as considerate of these residents as possible. The following is a summary of the key noise issues in our area. Your thoughtful consideration for following these guidelines will do much to maintain the goodwill of these residents.

Summary: Most complaints are the result of resident perception that the seaplane is too low over their neighborhood. The answer is simply to fly a minimum of 1,500agl over land whenever possible. The following account for the vast majority of complaints: 

  1. Be careful to overfly the centerline of the canal the entire length unless necessary to move right to avoid oncoming traffic. Fly to the south of the Shilshole Marina breakwater when outbound or inbound into the canal to avoid overflight of the Sunset West Condominiums which sit out over the water just south of the marina.

    Tim Brooks, Director of Operations, Kenmore Air

Seaplane Passenger Economic Benefits

In the Pacific Northwest, the cost of a seaplane Ride per-passenger is between $59 and $500. The Washington Seaplane Pilots Association reminds communities that private and commercial seaplane have a high average per-person spend and economic benefits to local communities through:

  • Food & Beverage

  • Merchandise

  • Excursions and Activities

  • Lodging

  • Ground Transportation, including to-and-from transfers to land-based airports

  • Fuel

For a detailed analysis please see:

Seaplane Passenger Economic Spend - Second Draft.pdf

Washington Lost Seaplane Bases

Invasive Species

The 100th Meridian Initiative is a cooperative effort between local, state, provincial, regional and federal agencies(US Fish and Wildlife Service) to prevent aquatic nuisance species in North America.  Their website www.100thmeridian.org is chock full of information.


You can even take their On Line Training and print a Certificate of Completion.  We recommend each of you do this.  As we see the spread of these critters, local, state and federal agencies are going to require us to jump through hoops just like they've done in California.  Perhaps we can get ahead of the program and keep legislation to a minimum for seaplanes.

Invasive Species Training Video

Historical Issues

Ross Lake National Recreation Area

As many seaplane pilots are aware, the National Park Service is creating a management plan for Ross Lake National Recreation Area in Washington which would affect a wide variety of activities and, as proposed, would severely restrict (and essentially eliminate) seaplane operations on the lake.  WSPA is leading the effort along with WPA, AOPA and the Seaplane Pilots Association to ensure that seaplanes will still have full access to the lake.

While the public comment period is currently closed, many members and staff have not only submitted comments, attended public meetings, but also our staff has continued negotiations behind closed doors at the Ross headquarters.  We are continuing on with a plan to retain as much access as possible.


We offer a sincere thank you to the seaplane pilots attending the meetings who presented our case in a professional and polite manner.  We reminded the National Park Service that it had already determined that seaplane operations only numbered one or two dozen a year at the lake and there was no history of complaints about seaplanes.  Pilots in attendance explained that limiting operations to certain areas of the lake wouldn’t be feasible because the aircraft often need to land near the center of the lake for wind conditions, water depth, obstructions, and docking facilities.

The NPS officials appeared to understand that the current proposal was not feasible nor was it fair to seaplane pilots.  Furthermore they saw the level of support for maintaining access for floatplanes.   


Bureau of Reclamation

In Apr'06 new rule making contained language which prohibited seaplane operation on over 400 water resources in 17 western states that are controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation. Over the following 2 years WSPA, CSPA along with other western state organizations in ID and MT were able to get the AOPA and SPA on board and took active position on this issue. 

BoR apparently over reacted to a directive where they had to respond to a new "Public Conduct Rule" issued by Homeland Security.  They really did over react!  But finally, December 11th, 2008, BoR published their Final Ruling effectivly reversing the origional ban.

In doing so, their proposal in September of '08 contained language removing  or excluding Seaplanes from the term Vessels while they are on the water.  This concerned many of us.  They also had used the term Managing Partners for the controlling agency for many of their waters and provided us with a useless list of contacts. We will be seeking any information you may receive and we will be working with the "Managing Partners"  to provide you with the best information we can.   

Help us to establish a history through documentation, and of course public relations.

Lake Isabel in the Wild Sky Wilderness Area 

As you may know, most if not all other wilderness areas ban seaplanes.  Wild Sky was written with the provision to allow "Floatplanes" to continue to operate at Lake Isabel.(do you think anyone will notice my Seabee isn't a floatplane?)

It had actually been 9 years in the making.  Wild Sky is no different in it's restriction of motorized vehicles and boats than any other wilderness area, EXCEPT for Floatplanes.  Yes, you heard that right.  As quoted from the bill, "Float Plane Access- As provided by section 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(1)), the use of floatplanes on Lake Isabel, where such use has already become established, shall be permitted to continue subject to such reasonable restrictions as the Secretary of Agriculture determines to be desirable."

This is HUGE.  Did you notice the phrase, "where such use has already become established," the fact that we can still use it is because we did establish a history of previous use!  Membership participation with our legislators kept our interests in the spotlight during this long struggle to keep our access.  What does the Secretary of Agriculture have do with it?  I'm not sure. But, he can change this with a stroke of a pen.  

You can see how sensitive these issues can be.  Please be good stewards of these fabulous resources.

Missouri Breaks Still an Issue

The BLM final plan prohibits seaplanes from using the river, but allows other power vessels, even though the BLM admits they’ve still never seen a seaplane there and don’t know that there is really any problem.  It appears they have denied our access since we are not “locals” and they wanted to show environmentalists involved that they were being hard on aircraft somewhere in the plan (the BLM allowed several grass strips to remain and this has angered some of the environmental groups).

Two web sites to look at are, first the BLM site of the final report:
And the second, the Friends of the Missouri Breaks web site showing what they are encouraging their members to object to, like the airstrips and use of the river by power boats:  http://www.missouribreaks.org/

 The BLM final plan says that seaplanes can use the river in an “emergency” which is something.  But the issue is that as a navigable river and a pathway for interstate commerce, the seaplane use should simply be allowed outright.  If it remains “emergency” use only, then: 

 1) the pilot is required to get into an emergency before using the river – rather than using the river before declaring an emergency as precautionary or just good judgment; the history of aviation accidents tells us this will predictably lead to serious accidents; and 

 2) there is the inevitable problem of what the definition of an “emergency” is, and park rangers are likely to give out a ticket anyway to be safe on their side, which would then require the pilot to return to a court in Montana to defend themselves – guilty until proven innocent.  

Aron Faegre, President
Columbia Seaplane Pilots Association

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