Port seeks seaplane amenity: Charters could use strip in Port Angeles Harbor

PORT ANGELES — Seaplanes already land in undesignated areas of Port Angeles Harbor off the downtown shoreline and dock in a tight space at the Boat Haven just west of the city.

On the horizon could be a 3,200-foot strip of water designated by compass headings for the floating aircraft that would be located east of City Pier.

It would be established under an application for a “seaplane base,” or sea lane, that the Port of Port Angeles submitted Tuesday to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Dan Gase, the port’s business and real estate manager, presented the proposal to port commissioners Tuesday at their regular work session.

Access to downtown

The sea lane, which would initially be designated for private and charter aircraft, would allow passengers to disembark for quick access on foot to all downtown has to offer, Gase said.

“Perhaps it would take a few years to put together, but it’s another source of jobs and activity to promote Port Angeles,” he said.

The port has been without commercial air passenger service from port-owned William R. Fairchild International Airport for almost three years — ever since November 2014.

It might be “a little premature” to expect, in the near future, commercial seaplane passenger service to and from Port Angeles Harbor, Gase said in a later interview.

“That due diligence hasn’t been started yet,” he said.

According to the FAA application, prepared by Gase and representatives of the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association, float planes would land in a lane north of City Pier between the pier and the site of the former Rayonier pulp mill.

There are 11 FAA-charted seaplane landing areas in the Northwest, Gase told port commissioners, adding that Port Angeles Harbor at one time had its own sea lane designation.

The planes would tie up and deplane passengers at a small docking area that would be built at Hollywood Beach.

“Perhaps, with the final stages of the waterfront improvement plan, [the city] could also incorporate a dock facility for a seaplane out by Hollywood Beach next to perhaps where the Feiro Marine Lab is now, in that general area,” Gase said at the meeting.

Gase said the seaplane docking area would complement the nearby City Pier floating docks the city has promised to re-install by Memorial Day 2018.

The designated sea lane would be especially attractive to travelers to and from Victoria who would have access to Customs agents to check them into the U.S., Gase said.

Agents already manage MV Coho ferry travelers from Victoria who disembark at the waterfront as well as international passengers arriving at the port’s Fairchild International Airport, Gase said.

“They would have to arrange for Customs to walk over and meet them at the plane,” Gase said in an interview.

Gase, a Port Angeles City Council member who is not running for re-election this year, said he had been working with city Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West on incorporating seaplane service into the city’s shorescape as part of the city’s ongoing waterfront improvement plan.

West was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Gase said he and West recently met with state Seaplane Pilots Association representatives who were enthusiastic about incorporating compass headings of an active Port Angeles Harbor seaplane strip into FAA charts.

Establishment of the strip “would not only be a boon to the community but also be a real boon to the seaplane community and the people that travel by seaplane,” Bruce Hinds, a past president of the association and a current board member, said Tuesday in an interview.

Hinds said it’s difficult for seaplanes to maneuver to and from the space at the port’s Boat Haven.

Hinds envisioned the Hollywood Beach docking area as probably consisting of a float and gangway — a stand-alone facility with a fuel pump.

“It’s going to be a dock where they will not have to be sharing it with other boat traffic,” Hinds said.

“A hotel is right there on the beach, the town is right there, it’s a great way for people to come spend the day or the weekend.”


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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