On August 31, 2018 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Advisory Circular 150/5395-1B – Seaplane Bases. This was an update to the previously existing “-1A” version dated August 2013. This is only the second revision to the Advisory Circular on seaplane bases since the initial publication of AC 150/5395-1 in June 1994.
At the end of May I left the seaplane base in Tavares, FL where I served as America’s Seaplane City’s first Aviation Manager – an experience I will forever treasure. During my time in Tavares I had the opportunity to work on a lot of interesting items and initiatives. One of these was to formulate an official response on behalf of America’s Seaplane City and the Tavares Seaplane Base to the FAA’s inquiry for feedback and proposed changes to the Advisory Circular on seaplane bases. While airports are each different in their own way, seaplane bases are even more unique, even with the standardization provided by the FAA.
When a seaplane pilot goes from one seaplane base to another, the facilities encountered can vary significantly! The seaplane bases that I have visited across the country are all unique and each has a special feel. In Tavares the seaplane base is located in the City’s downtown district, a unique attractant for recreational pilots looking for a good fly-in dining destination. Contrasted by the Miami Seaplane Base which is really a remotely located facility and doesn’t offer any dock space, simply a ramp to an apron, with a beautiful FBO alongside. Recalling my time in Alaska, I visited seaplane bases which did not have a ramp to an apron area, only shoreline and docks. Regardless, each had a large body of water upon which pilots could takeoff, land and maneuver their aircraft.
It was important to me that America’s Seaplane City provide meaningful feedback to the Advisory Circular update, especially considering the seaplane base was a Greenfield project of sorts many years before, literally being built fresh with no prior aviation facility existing beforehand.
I spent many hours reading and rereading the advisory circular and considering the material from both the seaplane base manager and seaplane pilot perspectives. In the end, I utilized the FAA-provided spreadsheet format and submitted a series of comments for edits and recommended additions within the comment window provided by the FAA.
The FAA spreadsheet is simple and asks for a couple of items:
- Reviewer Name
- Reviewer Organization
- Reviewer Phone Number
- Line Number
- Page Number
- Paragraph Number
- Select One – ‘C’ (Conceptual), ‘E’ (Editorial) or ‘F’ (Format)
- Recommended Change/ Proposed Rewrite
When I completed the sheet for the Seaplane Base Advisory Circular it was a very user friendly operation, the FAA provides an Excel spreadsheets pre-formatted with one tab of Instructions and another for providing the feedback. I submitted my comments and proposed edits in August 2017, more than a year before the revised AC was issued.
During that year, I had left Tavares and moved back to Massachusetts to an airport without a seaplane base component. But, I hadn’t forgotten about my proposed edits. When I received an email alert from the FAA that Advisory Circular 50/5395 had been revised I immediately clicked through to see what the new AC had to offer. Almost immediately, I dug into my file history to find a copy of my proposed edits to see if any of my feedback had been incorporated.
As it turns out, my feedback, along with that of many others I’m sure was incorporated in the new and improved Advisory Circular. To me the clearest example was a proposed edit I recommended in the section of the AC related to new seaplane bases. The exact text of one of my recommended changes: “Proposed rewrite to read: “12. commercial ship operating routes, pleasure boating activities and common recreational boating paths of travel.”
The new advisory circular reads, “12. commercial ship operating routes, pleasure boating activities, and common recreational boating paths of travel.”
This is one small example, but it was a very clear to see that through this advisory circular revision the FAA took my input, determined it was valuable and incorporated my thoughts into the new document. This really was a rewarding experience to know that the FAA has provided me an opportunity to share my knowledge of seaplane base operations with others.
This point may seem small, but at the Tavares Seaplane Base the impact of commonly utilized recreational boating paths of travel is plainly evident. The seaplane base is located in the Northwest corner of the lake, as is the entrance to the Dora Canal. The Dora Canal serves as a connection from Lake Dora to Lake Eustis and onto Lake Harris through the Dead River. This area, known as the ‘Harris Chain of Lakes’ is home to a significant amount of recreational boating, with many boaters regularly passing through the Dora Canal on a daily basis. Multiple times a day tour boats from Mount Dora on the East end of the lake would traverse the seaplane base landing area while heading for the Dora Canal, or while returning from sightseeing trips through the canal.
As a result of my experience in Tavares I felt it was important for others to understand the impact of common recreational boating paths of travel when laying out a seaplane base. Through a constant effort of promoting a “share the water” approach the recreational boating and seaplanes have coexisted very successfully in Tavares since the seaplane base opened.
I highly recommend taking the time to check out the Advisory Circulars presently under review for revision, which you can do HERE. The FAA Provides a list of all Advisory Circulars under review as drafts and with each the FAA provides:
- An ‘Industry Letter’ explaining the draft and revision efforts
- ‘Comment Matrix’ which includes the instructions and fields for comments/edits
Take the time to provide some feedback based on your knowledge and experience. Ultimately the more knowledge we all share the more the entire aviation industry will benefit.
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9