1 June 2021

Seaplanes proposal may sink us, says Yacht Club

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

Capital Retro9:08 am 04 Jun 21

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


Nick Blackwell2:38 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 Retro2:35 pm 03 Jun 21

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

Capital Retro10:42 am 03 Jun 21

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


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 https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.abc.net.au/article/100180740

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

Motorised that is. Fat fingers

ChrisinTurner7:06 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.

A seaplane on the water is simply a marine vessel. Is the yacht club saying that no other vessels can use Lake Burley Griffin? Is the lake exclusively for their use? The main proposal is 2 flights per day, total 20 minutes. Surely the yacht club can work around another vessel on the lake for 20 minutes a day without ‘sinking’!

They have been holding the lake hostage for years. Their inability to do what sailors on every other waterway in the world seem to handle as normal activity from other vessels is quite a worry.

How is it a marine vessel comparable to other craft when they will be dropping down unexpectedly from the sky?

It’s completely different to allow seaplanes in an area currently exclusively used by actual boats and consideration to existing users (many organisations) should be preferenced over an individual company trying to take over this area.

Are you serious mate? You can hear the sea plane 20km before it turns up. Amazingly, places as busy as Sydney Harbour and the sailors there are able to cope with sea planes landing, and it’s only about a thousand times busier there.
You are talking nonsense.

Paddy Lou Hodgman4:38 pm 02 Jun 21

Firstly, its not just the period of time the seaplane is operating on the lake its the 20-30 minutes either side of that needed to clear the young sailing school sailors away from that part kf the lake. Secondly, the water being shared in places like Sydney is a larger area with more options for keeping the approach and takeoff areas clear and thirdly, use of central basin in the lake avoids all the concerns raised by the sailors – and there’s no credible reason not to use central basin

Paddy Lou Hodgman4:43 pm 02 Jun 21

Nobody is or has been ‘..holding the lake hostage..’. What sailors can do in the larger more readily shareable spaces like Rose Bay is far less possible on West Lake and particularly harder for inexperienced young sailing school kids. As the riotACT story makes quite clear, nobody is trying to stop seaplane flights into the lake – just asking that an entirely suitable area of Central Basin is used – to the benefit of all users.

What nonsense, paddy. The yacht club whines and lodges complaints every single time other uses of the lake are suggested, and have done so for years.

The lake is for the use of all Canberrans, not just those who like sailboats. Your monopolising of the lake is coming to an end. Deal with it.

So the lake here requires more preparation than any other waterway on the planet, literally thousands and thousands of them, where sea planes land?

Again, get over it. You don’t get to monopolise an entire lake, let alone a large section of it, for your sailboats. Every other waterway on the planet seems to be able to cope with it. If you are a sub par sailor who can’t share the water with other vessels, find a new hobby.

Paddy Lou Hodgman5:23 pm 02 Jun 21

If there were any basis in fact, or if you could provide any evidence or examples, to support the claims you’re making, they’d carry greater weight.

Lol are you serious?

This is an area often used by inexperienced sailors as well as the inherent risks of these sail boats not being powered in the first place.

Sydney Harbour is not remotely comparable due to the size and level of powered craft on the water there. I’d be extremely worried if people suggested using the main shipping channels of Sydney Harbour for small, inexperienced sail craft as well.

I also find it hilarious that you’re complaining about the yacht club taking over the lake, whilst promoting one single commercial business to do the same.

Particularly when in reality it is currently numerous sailing organisations as well as the general public currently having the rights on the lake.

Your position is ridiculous.

Motorised marine vessels are restricted on LBG for good reasons.

Is there some confusion between West Basin and West Lake?

Paddy Lou Hodgman4:48 pm 02 Jun 21

No. West Basin is the area between the National Museum and the city. West Lake is the stretch heading down to Black Mountain peninsular. Hopefully, the seaplanes might use Central Basin, between the bridges, so that everyone can use the lake. The existing proposal’s flight path already goes over the bridges and Central Basin

Dear Canberra Yacht Club,
The lake is not for your exclusive use. Pull your heads in.

Paddy Lou Hodgman4:50 pm 02 Jun 21

If you read the riotACT story, you’d see that the Yacht Club isn’t seeking, and has never sought, exclusive use of the lake. If the seaplanes use Central Basin, everyone can continue to share use.

The yacht club were the biggest protestors of use of powerboats and jetskis on the lake too.
Stop telling fibs. You people go out of your way to prevent any other use of the lake but sail boats.

I am a Rabbit™8:37 am 02 Jun 21

Barely anybody sails on that part of the lake? It doesn’t have good wind conditions, which is exactly why it’s suited to seaplanes. I didn’t think those events for children were anywhere near the proposed landing zone anyway.

Rabbit, are you sure you know where you’re talking about?

The proposed landing spot (and beginning takeoff) is directly in front of the yacht club area which is the busiest sailing area on the lake.

Take a look at the map here


The lake is not there exclusively for the yacht club. People are tired of them basically demanding nobody else be allowed to use it. There are literally thousands of boats in the ACT that would probably like to use the lake, but can’t because of the likes of the whiners at the yacht club.

Paddy Lou Hodgman4:55 pm 02 Jun 21

Don’t think the present facts, or any past history support your claims that the Yacht Club has demanded anyone be stopped from using the lake, kenm, and they’re not doing that in this instance either.

What are you on about?

There are already numerous organisations that aren’t the “yacht club” as well as the general public using this area for sailing right now.

Your point makes no sense.

Although seeing above, I see you’ve now mentioned powered craft.

Ah, I see. Are you wanting to waterski, jetski or use powered craft on the lake? Are you upset that it hasn’t been allowed?

This issue actually has very little to do with the Yacht Club, nor any other sailors, but is more around the NCA and their vision for maintaining both the amenity and value of the lake as part of the Parliamentary area and Griffins plan.

Allowing a seaplane won’t make jetskis any more likely.

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