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Colorado group presses public benefit of seaplanesColorado group presses public benefit of seaplanes

A Colorado aviation event showcasing seaplanes—closely followed by their proving their worth in a real-world fight against a wildfire—has raised the profile of an effort by aviation advocates to extinguish a longtime ban on seaplane operations from the state’s waterways.

Aviation enthusiasts attending the Seaplanes in Community Service event October 7 at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum's Exploration of Flight Facility at Denver's Centennial Airport were treated to a close-up inspection of an amphibious Air Tractor AT-802F Fire Boss turboprop. Photo courtesy of Ray Hawkins.

AOPA is a supporter of the campaign known as the Colorado Seaplane Initiative and co-sponsored the Seaplanes in Community Service event held October 7 at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum’s Exploration of Flight Facility at Centennial Airport in Denver.

“The event was free to the public and highlighted the benefits of opening Colorado’s public-use waterways to seaplanes for firefighting and for commercial and recreational use,” said Josh Pruzek, AOPA Northwest Mountain regional manager. “Colorado is currently the only state that prohibits seaplane operations on all public-use waterways.”

A highlight of the event was an opportunity to conduct close-up inspections of aircraft including a towering, amphibious Air Tractor AT–802F Fire Boss, an initial-attack firefighting turboprop with a 16,000-pound takeoff weight; 820-gallon hopper capacity; and the capability to scoop up water from lakes, rivers, or reservoirs. 

Pruzek noted that just two days after the event, seaplanes joined the fight against a wildfire south of Denver.

“While air tankers have been used in combating Colorado wildfires for years, scooping has previously been off-limits due to concerns about the spread of invasive species,” he said. “The use of seaplanes and the state of Colorado’s acknowledgement of the value that water flying brings in combating wildfires is an enormous step forward for the Colorado Seaplanes Initiative.”

At the same time that practical demonstrations of seaplanes’ utility for community service and events such as the recent opening of a private seaplane base bolster the Colorado case for seaplane flying, AOPA is also working closely with the Colorado Seaplane Initiative and Ray Hawkins, the lead Colorado field director for the Seaplane Pilots Association, to advance legislation aimed at opening access to Colorado’s public-use waterways.

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, Seaplane

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