The UK's only seaplane can now only land on the Medway near the main channel, causing concern for sailors and for the pilots who prefer sheltered shallow water
Peel Ports has issued a proposal for the regulation of seaplane activity on the Medway and Swale rivers in Kent, says the Cruising Association.
Boat owners in the area have been concerned about what this could mean to them.
Aircraft wishing to land in either area have to notify Medway Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) of their intentions, who will then notify all yachts on VHF Ch74. Once Medway VTS is satisfied there’s no danger, permission will be granted to the aircraft to land. It is the pilot’s duty to remain out of the way of all vessels, as stated in the COLREGS.
All aircraft landing on the Medway are for training and leisure purposes, with no passenger loading, refueling or landing available.
Clipper Seaplanes operates the only seaplane registered in England. Pilot Anna Walker said:
‘To be able to fly a seaplane, pilots have to undertake further training, equivalent to the YachtMaster exam so we understand what to expect of other boats. It’s our responsibility to ensure the area is clear before landing. This includes checking Notes To Mariners before any flight. We also have an excellent view from above and can judge the situation before even attempting a landing. Planes have been landing on the Medway since 1908 and we’ve been operating here for the last 30 years.’
The restrictions brought in by Peel Ports show an area on the Medway and another area at Half Acre Creek where planes can operate. Anna Walker explained that they could land anywhere it was safe to do so.
‘We draw less than one foot and are badly affected by weather, so the edges of the river were ideal for us and out of the way of boats. The new area is right alongside the channel and makes it difficult to land.’
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the controlling body of all aircraft, which states that the seaplane, an Aviat Husky run by Clipper Seaplanes from Rochester aerodrome in Kent, has all the appropriate permissions to land on the Medway and take off again.
As a plane approaches it is under the jurisdiction of the CAA, however when it lands it becomes a vessel and has to abide by the Port Authority’s legislation.
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