Lake Burley Griffin seaplane proposal is worth looking at

Ian Bushnell 10 December 2020 107
Seaplane on Sydney Harbour

Sydney Seaplanes is proposing to operate three return flights between Rose Bay and Lake Burley Griffin daily. Photo: Facebook.

At first, some may have thought a seaplane service on Lake Burley Griffin was another pie in the sky idea like the Black Mountain or Mount Stromlo gondolas that seem to have been around forever but have never been able to get off the ground.

Sydney Seaplanes first floated the idea back in 2007 but this time it’s different – with a National Capital Authority board keen for more creative use of the Lake, a government nursing an economy back to health as the COVID-19 crisis subsides, and the company itself looking to expand after 15 years in business.

The company has also had input from Canberra Airport, itself recovering from a catastrophic loss of business due to the COVID restrictions and pursuing a strategy of securing routes with smaller regional airlines as the bigger carriers rebuild their services.

While there may have been initial mirth and the usual groans when anything is suggested for the Lake, it should be taken as a serious proposition that would bring visitors directly into the centre of Canberra where our great national institutions are to be found.

It will also provide another transport option for those travelling to Sydney who want to avoid Sydney Airport and don’t want to take the Hume.

Next Tuesday there will be a demonstration flight that will give the NCA, which will need to give the proposal the tick of approval, an idea of how it would work, and what impact it may have on the Lake as well as other Lake users (although it should be noted that the test flight will be a 10-seater Cessna, not a large plane).


READ ALSO: Sydney seaplane service proposed for Lake Burley Griffin


Obviously, the environmental and heritage aspects also need to be understood and protected. The last thing anybody wants is a fuel spill.

Some will argue that allowing a commercial operation such as this in effect privatises the air space above and the waters where it splashes down and motors to a dock near the National Museum of Australia.

But for the time a seaplane will actually be on the water – about five minutes according to the company – it will have less impact than a regular ferry service.

Sydney Seaplanes has been operating out of Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour for 15 years and argues it is used to sensitive environments and negotiating a flotilla of crafts of all kinds on the busiest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere.

Some might also fear that giving the seaplane venture the go-ahead might open the floodgates to a range of motorised activity on the Lake that would disturb its character and make it more exposed to potential pollution.

But the NCA says this is a one-off and the proposal deserves a fair hearing.

The company’s managing director and co-owner Aaron Shaw admits Qantas won’t be shaking in its boots, and the initial traffic of about 30-45 passengers a day will not be large but it will generate more interest in the national capital, have flow-on effects on the economy and provide a service that will not be out of the reach of most Canberrans.

It’s probably more viable than a gondola.


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107 Responses to Lake Burley Griffin seaplane proposal is worth looking at
Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:00 pm 13 Jan 21

Seriously, have any of you thrill-seekers ever flown in a light plane from Canberra to Sydney or reverse?

In weather like we are having this week you will be chundering before you get to Goulburn.

Peter Johnson Peter Johnson 7:10 pm 12 Jan 21

No more than would ferry and outboard motor fuel from the various users.

nickwest nickwest 5:08 pm 17 Dec 20

Does anyone know when the trial flight next Tuesday is due? It would be fun to watch, especially if the NiMBYs get their way and this is the one and only flight 🙂

Scott Lang Scott Lang 9:38 pm 14 Dec 20

I'm not filthy rich, but I'd certainly consider it. Imagine not having to deal with Sydney Airport and paying extortionate car parking and other charges. Instead, you get out at Rose Bay and then take a ferry to Circular Quay. It sounds an awful lot more pleasant.

Abdul Fahd Nilar Abdul Fahd Nilar 10:37 am 14 Dec 20

Adam J Gatt please show Joanne :) No excuses now!

Amy Pendragon Amy Pendragon 10:00 pm 13 Dec 20

Could the Avgas pollute the lake?

    Matthew James Matthew James 8:23 am 14 Dec 20

    Amy Pendragon If it might kill the blue-green algae, it's worth a try.

    Scott Abela Scott Abela 5:57 pm 14 Dec 20

    Amy Pendragon short answer is no.. Avgas doesn't leak and the exhaust is burned gas like any other engine from a boat or nearby car etc. If the plane crashed or sunk, the gas will 'boil off' like other oil and fuel spills... its quite safe even if something happens, its the heavy fuels from ships that are more of a problem for ocean / lake wild life.

Cherry Matthews Cherry Matthews 7:32 pm 13 Dec 20

yes... I vote YES...

Gerald Lynch Gerald Lynch 3:31 pm 13 Dec 20

30-40 people a day offers nothing in terms of a transport medium for travellers; it’s simply an expensive tourism enterprise. While it may be fun for some the whole exercise has to be considered in terms of its opportunity costs as well as economic benefit; noise, inconvenience to other lake users, land based lakeshore infrastructure, flight envelope and ground risk, need and so on. Just because it can be done is no justification for it actually being allowed.

Ken Meaney Ken Meaney 11:19 am 13 Dec 20

Then there is the infrastructure needed on the lake - passenger parking and terminal, maintenance, servicing and refueling for the aircraft etc - the statement that the aircraft will spend only a few minutes on the lake is a load of cobblers.

Acton Acton 1:01 pm 12 Dec 20

The aviation antics of the Birdman Rally would provide more amusement than a seaplane.

Ken Meaney Ken Meaney 11:11 am 12 Dec 20

Is this the thin edge of the wedge to allow more motorised traffic on the lake? If the powers that be want to improve travel between Canberra and Sydney why not improve the rail service?

    Frances Summers Frances Summers 1:11 pm 12 Dec 20

    Ken Meaney - and put secure parking at the railway station.

    Neil Chandler Neil Chandler 4:41 pm 12 Dec 20

    Ken Meaney that is not likely to happen without a big injection of Federal money - NSW govt isn't gonna fork out the $$$ for a major rebuild of a rail line to benefit people who don't live in their state.

Theresa Rowan Theresa Rowan 7:19 pm 11 Dec 20

And a fast train.

    Scott Lang Scott Lang 9:35 pm 14 Dec 20

    Theresa, I like trains, but I'd be careful what you wish for. Having lived in Japan, many of the communities that used to be 6-7 hours to Tokyo by local train and are now 1.5-2 hours by shinkansen have found that their young people have moved to Tokyo, and their local industries have gone. Their tax base has shrunk...leaving them as dormitory towns with many elderly residents and no way to pay for the aged care and other costs.

    Theresa Rowan Theresa Rowan 7:45 am 15 Dec 20

    Japan has zero net population growth and different immigration policy.

Iaian Ross Iaian Ross 6:56 pm 11 Dec 20

Canberra doesn't understand what is required for a floatplane hydrodrome.

The bridges close off escape route run offs. There needs to be an existing port and jetty with good road access. It needs to be in a built-up commercial area or well away from where people live to dampen the noise - float planes are *loud*.

And crucially it needs to be located by a natural harbour or inlet of water so that there is plenty of time and space for other users to get out of the way. A lake used for leisurely activities, doesnt make a good space for this due to its "closed" nature.

    Andy Byrnes Andy Byrnes 10:50 pm 11 Dec 20

    Iaian Ross it routinely lands in the bays of the eastern suburbs of Sydney,.. and if those people dont complain about the noise then i'll bet the residents around west basin won't. Oh wait, there are none...

    They also land in Fjords of scandinavia, with mountains bigger than our bridges.

    There is minimal safety risk here. Lake users have to dodge the existing party boats more frequently than they will for this service.

    What is your problem mate?

    Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 4:04 pm 12 Dec 20

    Andy Byrnes Sydney Harbour and the Fjords are a lot bigger than Lake Burley Griffin and there is room there for coexistance. Not so here and that is the problem.

    Matthew James Matthew James 8:22 am 14 Dec 20

    Rose Bay and West Basin are almost exactly the same size.

Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 6:19 pm 11 Dec 20

As long as they have a points system for running over rowers

Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 12:41 pm 11 Dec 20

Everything is wrong and a bad idea!

Michele Balcomb Michele Balcomb 11:54 am 11 Dec 20

So locals can not use it for Watersports but a plane can come and go... I don't get the logic.

    Sean O'Dowd Sean O'Dowd 1:07 pm 12 Dec 20

    Michele Balcomb there is none, the public servants will have this stopped, it will be classed as fun and we can't have that.

    Matthew James Matthew James 7:27 am 15 Dec 20

    Sean O'Dowd I think they have already started...

Peter Schwarz Peter Schwarz 11:39 am 11 Dec 20

Great idea. Another link to Sydney would be great

Margaret Ryan Margaret Ryan 11:23 am 11 Dec 20

What about the wash each time they land and take off?No speed boats allowed now,but our government now will ok anything for added vibrancy!SHAME!

    Al Wese Al Wese 7:32 pm 11 Dec 20

    Margaret Ryan the wash from the plane will probably help with the copious amounts of blue green algae each summer

    Margaret Ryan Margaret Ryan 10:55 pm 11 Dec 20

    Al Wese But who is going to maintain the stone wall holding in the water?

    Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 3:58 pm 12 Dec 20

    Margaret Ryan not to mention the dam.

    Jeff Heron Jeff Heron 4:36 pm 14 Dec 20

    Margaret Ryan have you seen the wash from the wind on LBG (which is much of the time)? Compare that to a seaplane landing and taking off well away from the walls, where the wash will subside by the time it gets to the edge.

    The NCA’s current wall renewal program is based on their statement, “Since the filling of the lake in 1963, wind and wave attrition has weakened mortar joints between rocks ...”

Tania Parkes Tania Parkes 10:15 am 11 Dec 20

Such negativity with little information, give it a chance...

    Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 3:57 pm 12 Dec 20

    Tania Parkes i know their proposed landing area i.e.West Basin is fully utilised Saturday and Sunday during the sailing season and caters for rowers, dragon boats, sail boards, kayaks etc. So you see objections have foundation. This proposal and it's proponents are the ones acting with little information, that or with total disregard for the Canberra community who use the lake already. And they say noise won't be a problem because they will fly over water. Ever noticed how well sound travels over water.

    Tania Parkes Tania Parkes 4:15 pm 12 Dec 20

    Jaffa Groube The NCA wouldn’t let them trial it without considering the implications. And there’ll be community consultation if they progress to the next stage. It’s very early days.

    Dayn Jackson Dayn Jackson 9:29 pm 13 Dec 20

    Jaffa Groube what about Sydney harbour, no sail boats,rowers,kayaks, ferries, drivers etc etc

    Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 10:23 pm 13 Dec 20

    Dayn Jackson and it's a lot bigger than the lake.

    Ric Pauline Ric Pauline 12:42 am 14 Dec 20

    Jaffa Groube hey Dayn Jackson to the best of my knowledge, aren’t the Sydney sea planes only using a narrow strip of Rose Bay....maybe 300-400m by 30m? Certainly not a big part of the harbour, therefore the size of the harbour is irrelevant I’d of thought. There is no wake to speak of from the planes, only the ferries. I’d be keen to see this happen, it’d be spectacular! (Therefore someone will poo poo it I guess)

    Steven Evans Steven Evans 9:04 am 14 Dec 20

    It's Canberra man, so many nay sayers. Not as if it's really going to affect anyone.

    Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 10:02 am 14 Dec 20

    Ric Pauline take off length for Twin Otter seaplane is 374m, to reach 50ft is 599m. Theoretically it could use the Central or East basins of Burley Griffin and it would inconvenience very few regular lake users but I suspect the NCA and the company think they are too small. In Sydney Harbour that space is readily available but Burley Griffin at 6 sq kilometers is a lot smaller.

    Matthew James Matthew James 7:26 am 15 Dec 20

    Jaffa Groube Rose Bay is the same size as West Basin and is packed full of moorings, yachts and other water users. If they can figure out how to manage a four-berth seaplane jetty in Rose Bay, I'm sure the smart people of Canberra can figure out how to do it in West Basin.

    Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 9:44 am 15 Dec 20

    Matthew James lots moored there but they sail on the rest of the harbour and there is not much rest of Burley Griffin.

    Matthew James Matthew James 7:15 am 16 Dec 20

    Lake Burley Griffin is 6.64km2. The seaplane requires 60m clearance on its 600m take-off run (0.08km2) a few times a day, and half that much for landing.

    I'm pretty sure there are people at the NCA/CASA/etc.. smart enough to figure out how to make that work.

    Peter Johnson Peter Johnson 11:53 am 13 Jan 21

    Jaffa Groube As I write this, I hear the sounds of large vehicle reversing alarms, motor bikes, vehicle 'enthusiasts' with extremely loud exhausts as well as trucks grinding up Mt Mugga Mugga and the sounds of construction from the building project next door. Yet the sound of a light aircraft in the distance over a lake (where there are no residences) is a noise problem?

    Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 1:48 pm 13 Jan 21

    Peter Johnson noise isn't a problem for me.

Lyalle Patterson Lyalle Patterson 9:47 am 11 Dec 20

far too expensive for the average Joe

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 11:43 am 11 Dec 20

    Lyalle luckily canberrans have, on average, a far higher annual income than the average Joe in australia

    Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 5:43 pm 11 Dec 20

    Lyalle Patterson if you become a politician you can have your flight founded by the taxpayers. 👍

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