Statewide efforts are under way in Colorado to enact legislation that would allow for the operation of aircraft on certain state waters.

Statewide efforts are under way in Colorado to enact legislation that would allow for the operation of aircraft on certain state waters. Colorado is currently the only state in the United States which does not allow for such operations. On April 6, 2017, a bipartisan bill was presented to the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder (R) and Sen. Nancy Todd (D) as well as Rep. Jovan Milton (D). SB17-235 was postponed indefinitely in committee after a motion from Sen. Baumgardner (R) was passed, effectively killing the bill.

Presently, education and rallying continue to reshape the public perception of seaplanes. Legislation will be presented soon that focuses on studying any potential adverse effects of seaplane operations, and identify methods of mitigation. The most pronounced fears were expressed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) concerning invasive species, such as the zebra mussel. Other concerns cited included overcrowding lakes and disturbing natural ecosystems.

SB17-235 addressed all of these issues. Invasive species, such as the zebra mussel, will be mitigated by establishing an inspection and decontamination process, similar to those used by boaters. Under the new legislation, pilots would be required to inspect, decontaminate, and certify their planes before operating on any Colorado waters. The process would have been at no cost to CPW or taxpayers and would have overwhelmingly deteriorated any likelihood of invasive species being introduced to state waters at the hand of a pilot. Operations would also be compliant of FAA regulations established for pilots to ensure safe handling of their aircraft on Colorado waters, effectively discrediting any irrational fear of pilots wrecking their very expensive airplanes into boaters. Furthermore, unlike boats, seaplanes require no infrastructure to operate. Boats need ramps, while aircraft do not. Boats also incorporate water into their motors to cool them and muffle exhaust, mixing toxic gases, unburned oil, and unburned fuel into the water while aircraft leave no trace behind.

Colorado is well on its way to experiencing the many benefits that come from seaplanes. One such benefit would be the ability to train Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) pilots to skim water off of the surface of lakes and large ponds, leading to drastically decreased time between attacks on wildfires. Additional benefits would include increased revenues and demand for jobs relating to training, tourism, repair and manufacture, and transportation. Seaplanes provide a very important function in our society, and Colorado is really missing out!

Ray Hawkins with the Seaplane Pilots Association is spearheading a campaign to educate the public on the importance of seaplanes. A “Splash-in” is planned for May 20, 2017 at Lake Meredith in Crowley County. Planes must land at the La Junta airport (KLHX) to be inspected before obtaining authorization to land on the private lake. Multiple vendors will be present, and public support is greatly appreciated. Vendors are also still being accepted, so please call ahead to reserve a spot. Aircraft will land beginning at 7:30 a.m. in La Junta and will continue to Lake Meredith beginning at 8 a.m. For more information, contact Cade Sallee at 719-251-3921. Interested parties may also find more information at http://coloradopilots.org/. The event will also be broadcasted by KTHN radio 92.1 FM.