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Seaplane pilots give Colorado a lesson in accessSeaplane pilots give Colorado a lesson in access

Seaplane pilots in Colorado are taking the direct approach in their advocacy efforts to eliminate a total ban on floatplanes using public waterways.

On July 15, a group called the Colorado Seaplane Initiative staged a splash-in on a reservoir near Rangely in the northwestern corner of the state.

There was nothing civilly disobedient about the event, called the First Ever Colorado Mountain Splash-In, which brought amphibious aircraft to Kenney Reservoir after a stop at Rangely Airport to check for any attached invasive plant species.

The 13,800-acre water body, built in 1984, is managed by the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District and teems with recreational users between April and November. Aircraft manufacturers had wares on display, safety seminars were available to the several hundred people who attended the event, a “huge” selection of giveaways was planned, and the Colorado Seaplane Initiative gave presentations on “the state of efforts to open State Waterways.”

It was fun in the sun on a 96-degree-Fahrenheit day, but with a serious purpose. According to the group, Colorado is home to more than 16,000 pilots, more than 800 seaplane-rated pilots, and 38 seaplane owners. But the state bans seaplanes from all public waterways, a prohibition enforced by its Parks and Wildlife Agency.

“Colorado is the only State that forbids seaplanes in this manner,” says the Colorado Seaplane Initiative, adding that the state’s “claim of safety, security, and environmental concerns ignore facts and promote fears. General Aviation is the producer of an estimated $2.4 billion in annual economic impact to this State.”

AOPA is working with the local advocates to improve access. Legislation enabling and authorizing seaplane access on public waterways will be introduced to the Colorado Legislature in 2018, said Warren Hendrickson, AOPA Northwest Mountain regional manager.

“The freedom to fly requires the freedom of access,” he said.

A previous seaplane-access bill was introduced in March 2016 but was voted down in committee.

One visitor to Kenney Reservoir for the splash-in was able to cross an item off her bucket list when she got a ride from pilot and Seaplane Pilots Association member Wayne Rudd in a 180-horsepower Piper Super Cub.

The passenger was Mary Kenney, a member of the family for whom the reservoir is named. Giving her a ride was the highlight of the pilot’s day, Colorado Seaplane Initiative founder Ray Hawkins noted in an email to AOPA.

“We owe a great debt to the people of Rangely, Rio Blanco County, and the RBWCD. Without their support this would never [have] been possible,” Hawkins wrote.

Hendrickson added that the event should demonstrate to critics in Colorado what is common knowledge in the other 49 states: “Boats and airplanes successfully coexist on the water everywhere.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, Airport

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