Seaplanes proposal may sink us, says Yacht Club

Ian Bushnell 1 June 2021 75
Sydney Seaplanes Cessna Caravan

Sydney Seaplanes Cessna Caravan on approach to Lake Burley Griffin last December. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The Canberra Yacht Club has hoisted a number of red flags about proposals for seaplane flights to Lake Burley Griffin, saying the operations may sink the 62-year-old institution.

In a submission to the National Capital Authority’s consultation on a discussion paper, the club says seaplanes in the western part of the Lake threaten its operational and financial viability, and therefore its continued existence.

If there have to be seaplanes on the Lake, the club argues that Central Basin would be a preferable location given the operations would not disrupt events, and it offered two potentially more attractive jetty locations for embarking and landing passengers.

The discussion paper canvasses proposals from Sydney Seaplanes and South Coast Seaplanes to run services to Canberra.

READ ALSO: Sydney seaplane service proposed for Lake Burley Griffin

Sydney Seaplanes, which operated a test flight last December, is proposing four daily services between Rose Bay and Canberra, two of which would land on and take off from the lake, tying up at the dock near the National Museum of Australia.

The test flight involved a single-engine Cessna Caravan, but the company plans to use the bigger, two-engine amphibious Twin Otter operated by two pilots and carrying a maximum of 14 passengers.

It would land on the Lake at 10:00 am, departing at 10:30 am, with the next landing at 3:30 pm, departing at 4:00 pm. Each landing and take-off would involve the aircraft manoeuvring on the Lake for about five minutes, a total of 20 minutes per day.

Twin Otter plane

A Twin Otter plane like the one Sydney Seaplanes wants to use on Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: Wikimedia.

South Coast Seaplanes initially would offer short scenic flights around Canberra, using single-engine Maule aircraft, but look to introduce packaged products, particularly targeted at international tourists, including direct connections with tourist attractions on the South Coast and in the Snowy Mountains.

Flights would initially be limited to two a day, one or two days a week between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm in summer months, with reduced hours in the winter.

The yacht club says seaplanes in West Basin would disrupt local, state and national regattas and its sailing school and two inclusion programs – the all-abilities Sailability and Buoyed Up, which caters to vulnerable children.

The club took aim at the NCA for glossing over heritage aspects, a “selective and inadequate coverage” of concerns and for not following up on those concerns in developing the discussion paper.

The NCA engaged GLM Heritage to report on the demonstration flight. It concluded that the noise and general disturbance to the Lake did have a minor adverse impact on the heritage values of the Lake, but the infrequency of operations and temporary nature meant the degree of impact was minimal.

The Yacht Club says it is prepared to work with the NCA and seaplane operators to identify workable options, alternatives, and arrangements to address its concerns and mitigate the proposal’s ‘significant’ risks.

If operating from Central Basin is not possible, the club says there will need to be actions to mitigate the safety risks and adverse impacts on its business, including safe areas during seaplane operations, notifications of take-offs and landings, limiting seaplane operations during racing days, alternative flight times, and takeoffs and landings closer to Black Mountain Peninsula.

READ ALSO: Water sustainability should be a priority even when dams are full

Sydney Seaplanes, which operates out of Rose Bay, believes it has the experience to negotiate lake traffic and not disrupt other users.

The NCA says that after the demonstration flight, many people could see the benefits of such a service, including not having to contend with airports, time savings, an alternative travel option between Canberra and Sydney, and the potential to promote tourism to the National Capital and engage businesses such as accommodation providers, restaurants and attractions.

The main concerns included safety impacts, the inconvenience to other Lake users for the direct benefit of only a few, noise, the potential precedence that might be set in allowing more motorised craft on the Lake, and disturbing the existing peaceful nature of the Lake.

If the NCA decides to continue, it will conduct more consultation on the issues raised, and seaplane operators will be required to apply for a licence to operate on the Lake, any other permits and submit a Works Approval for infrastructure such as mooring.

The discussion paper is open to comments until 22 June and can be found on the NCA website.

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75 Responses to Seaplanes proposal may sink us, says Yacht Club
Acton Acton 8:06 am 05 Jun 21

We would all be cheering if the seaplane landing on the lake was an entrant in a reestablished Birdman Rally.

Patrick Fischer-Reid Patrick Fischer-Reid 6:11 pm 04 Jun 21

My intense dislike of entitled rich people who join yacht clubs is battling with my intense dislike of entitled rich people who take seaplanes to fly to Rose Bay.

I might have to sit on the fence for this one.

    Paddy Lou Hodgman Paddy Lou Hodgman 11:55 pm 05 Jun 21

    Patrick Fischer-Reid Do you also have a dislike for the sailability people and the vulnerable kids benefiting from the Yacht Club’s sailing inclusion programs operating on the lake?

Mathew Grant Mathew Grant 5:02 pm 04 Jun 21

I think Canberra yacht club are super annoying and dangerous on the lake. Have nearly been mowed down by them rowing backwards not looking where they are going and no spotter.

    Trey Devilchild Trey Devilchild 11:28 pm 04 Jun 21

    Mathew Grant I agree. More money than sence.

    Mathew Grant Mathew Grant 5:51 pm 05 Jun 21

    Trey Devilchild they should move to lake Tuggeranong 😂

    Trey Devilchild Trey Devilchild 5:51 pm 05 Jun 21

    Mathew Grant true dat

    Paddy Lou Hodgman Paddy Lou Hodgman 2:46 pm 15 Jun 21

    Mathew Grant You may not have noticed, but the yacht club doesn’t row (forwards or backwards) they sail - using the breeze & generally face in the direction they’re going.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:08 am 04 Jun 21

If indeed Rattenbury has acquired a seaplane it would be one of these with floats:

Julian Mules Julian Mules 5:14 am 04 Jun 21

Has Rattenbury got himself a sea plane now?

Steve Knope Steve Knope 3:25 pm 03 Jun 21

How’s the serenity

Nick Blackwell Nick Blackwell 2:38 pm 03 Jun 21

I thought we (ACT residents) had a ban on all motorised craft (with the exception of police and other rescue craft) being allowed on Lake Burley Griffin. Because it brings in money to the ACT (fees, tourist dollars etc) has this ban been rescinded. It strikes me that a lot of previous bans, (street billboards, coloured lights, not being allowed to vote in Federal elections) have been allowed to slowly creep in to so called modernise our ‘country town’ image. I came to this country town because of its ‘country town image 50 odd years ago. I love modern, progressive, lifestyles but not at the expense of a unique city being destroyed and made to look like every other city in the world.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:35 pm 03 Jun 21

You fly a R22 helicopter? You are indeed a thrill-seeker.

Dino Marzotto Dino Marzotto 2:21 pm 03 Jun 21

If planes land then POWERBOATS are allowed as well

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:42 am 03 Jun 21

Bird strikes could be a hazard, lots of silver gulls, black swans and other waterfowl on LBG.

Margus von Tihemetsa Margus von Tihemetsa 5:41 am 03 Jun 21

There are three basins, plenty of room to divi up across the interest groups.

Tony Karrys Tony Karrys 3:33 am 03 Jun 21

What’s in it for the ACT government?? It’s the motive behind all this that one has to question. Did they ask if we want it? Of course not.

    Mikey Moore Mikey Moore 8:21 am 03 Jun 21

    Its not the ACT governments call. The lake is Federal (NCA) jurisdiction.

Benny Turnbull Benny Turnbull 12:48 am 03 Jun 21

How about jet skis and ski boats 1 weekend per month.

Elite yaughtists have had a monopoly on our lake for too long

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 2:14 am 03 Jun 21

    And fishing boats the other 3 weekends.

    Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 1:37 pm 03 Jun 21

    Benny Turnbull Elite yachtists also a problem. But many of us are sailing skiffs, windsurfers and paddling canoes.

    Benny Turnbull Benny Turnbull 1:58 pm 03 Jun 21

    Yep as I have in the past. I’d just love to see our lake being shared across all water recreations and activities.

    I think one weekend a month for motors is very reasonable

    Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 2:31 pm 03 Jun 21

    Benny Turnbull Yes. I actually like light aircraft as I ofen fly one as well as a Robinson 22 helicopter. Love to try a seaplane.

    Tim Adams Tim Adams 3:06 pm 03 Jun 21

    Benny Turnbull elite yachties that have absolutely minimal environmental impact.

    Jet skis and ski boats are noisy AF. The only people who enjoy them are those using them at the time.

    Benny Turnbull Benny Turnbull 3:30 pm 03 Jun 21

    I’ve been paying a third of my income in taxes for three decades.

    I don’t think one weekend per month between saying 9 & five pm (hell, let’s say just over summer months) is too much to ask????

    Adam Scott Adam Scott 4:01 pm 04 Jun 21

    Benny Turnbull I think you will find it is the noise that the jet ski’s and ski boats make that is the main problem. Also wake boats that make large waves intentionally would affect all other lake users.

    How are (Yuaghtists) elite, the ski boats and jet ski’s are more expensive than most sailing boats

    Adam Scott Adam Scott 4:02 pm 04 Jun 21

    Shane Jasprizza fishing boats already allowed all the time with electric motor, I think

    Benny Turnbull Benny Turnbull 4:05 pm 04 Jun 21

    and as I’ve said I don’t think one weekend per month in daylight hours is summer is too much to ask.

    It would equate to about 10 days per year

    Adam Scott Adam Scott 4:08 pm 04 Jun 21

    Benny Turnbull tell that to all of the wealthy apartment owners who live by the lake now, I don’t like the chances. Also very few fast powered craft could use the lake at one time safely

    Benny Turnbull Benny Turnbull 4:09 pm 04 Jun 21

    Adam Scott true dat

    Nick Savino Nick Savino 3:57 pm 05 Jun 21

    Benny Turnbull it is for some 🙂

Nate Mooré Nate Mooré 11:41 pm 02 Jun 21

Central Basin may be preferable for the yacht club, however IS it viable for aircraft in terms of space and leaving a safety margin for operations?

Perhaps the Yacht club is making some assumptions there...

    Paddy Lou Hodgman Paddy Lou Hodgman 11:52 pm 05 Jun 21

    Nate Mooré the submissions are being published on the NCA website. The operating capabilities of the seaplane have been thoroughly researched and they can operate on Central Badin

hgak hgak 11:03 pm 02 Jun 21

After looking at the map at on the ABC website it is obvious that there is confusion about West Basin and West Lake. The proposal is for the planes to land and take off in West Lake in front of the Yacht Club and not in the small bay much closer to Commonwealth Ave. that the ACT Government is currently partially filling in to sell more land to developers.
See map at

Anura Samara Anura Samara 10:33 pm 02 Jun 21

Is the yacht club suggesting that they are using the lake continuously during the planned operating periods? Or that they somehow need to have exclusive access just in case someone needs to use it? I would assume that appropriate exclusion zones would be marked with buoys.

    Marlon Leicester Marlon Leicester 8:48 am 03 Jun 21

    Anura Samara yeah, the timings align to typical race times, and it look like the intention is essentially to stick the landing strip in the centre of the typical racing area southeast of springbank island.

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 1:09 pm 03 Jun 21

    Marlon Leicester do they race during the week?

    Marlon Leicester Marlon Leicester 1:30 pm 03 Jun 21

    Anura Samara during daylight savings, Wednesday afternoons, plus most summer afternoons have junior sailing courses running, school holiday courses, etc.

purplevh purplevh 9:47 pm 02 Jun 21

Mororised watercraft are not allowed on LBG yet sea planes are?

Judith White Judith White 9:08 pm 02 Jun 21

It would be wonderful to see seaplanes on the Lake....

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 9:17 pm 02 Jun 21

    Judith White but it’s not the sea

    Judith White Judith White 9:19 pm 02 Jun 21

    Jorge Gatica It's the landings and 'taking off' that is good to watch. Water is water....... we don't have Rose Bay here....

    John Bosch John Bosch 7:15 am 03 Jun 21

    Lakeplanes doesn't sound as sexy though

    Judith White Judith White 5:25 pm 03 Jun 21

    John Bosch I don't mind 'Lakeplanes.' It might bring in the!

Tony Armstrong Tony Armstrong 7:40 pm 02 Jun 21

Time we drained the lake and build units.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 7:06 pm 02 Jun 21

These rush-of-blood-to-the-head flights must not be allowed to impact on the long-term operation of the Yacht Club on LBG. Once the gimmick value has been explored the flights will probably collapse. Ask if they own the aircraft or have them on a month-to-month lease.

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