Canberra Authorities to Go Forward With Seaplane Operations, Despite Public Controversy

Sydney Seaplanes is one of the operators that wants its aircraft to be able to land and take-off from Lake Burley Griffin 7 photos
Photo: Sydney Seaplanes
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Seaplane operations are causing a stir in Canberra, Australia. In a controversial move, the National Capital Authority (NCA) has officially approved these operations on Lake Burley Griffin, despite most of the public being against them. Are all seaplanes an unwanted risk factor for lake users, or is it just about conventional models? Perhaps electric seagliders could be the answer for both sides.
Two aviation operators, Sydney Seaplanes and South Coast Seaplanes, want their aircraft to take-off and land on Lake Burley Griffin, located close to the National Museum of Australia. The first operator wants to introduce a commuter service with seaplanes operating three times per day, while the other one wants to focus on weekly tourism flights between Canberra and the NSW South Coast. An initial demonstration was already conducted at the end of last year.

But the local community, including lake users, tourism groups and yachting clubs, is worried about the negative impact of these future operations. The main points of concern are safety for lake users, noise pollution, and environmental footprint. As a result, during the project’s public consultation phase, the response was overwhelmingly negative, with 71 rejections out of 107 submissions. However, NCA’s recent statement confirms that it will continue with the project, which it describes as a “unique travel tourism link.”

Perhaps the issue is not about the operations themselves but about the seaplane models. As the whole world is transitioning to clean energy-based means of transportation, seaplanes shouldn’t be an exception. An electric version would eliminate at least two of the current concerns, as it’s quieter and safer for the environment. Only last week, it was announced that electric seaglider operations will soon kick off at Tampa Bay, Florida, with full support from the local community, largely due to the fact that these are innovative, sustainable alternatives to hybrid aircraft.

Despite the public backlash, NCA is determined to allow the two companies to operate their conventional hybrid aircraft on the lake. It did state that “all operational, safety, infrastructure issues and commercial matters”will be addressed, which is why it plans to hold meetings on the subject within a working group starting February 2022. If these seaplanes will indeed become a common sight on Lake Burley Griffin, and for how long, only time will tell.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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