Seaplanes could soon be landing on Lake Burley Griffin if a proposal from a Sydney company gets off the ground, and the Chief Minister is on board.
The National Capital Authority has announced that Sydney Seaplanes will stage a demonstration flight from Rose Bay next week on 15 December with a Cessna Caravan to test the idea.
The experienced flier, which also operates on the Great Barrier Reef, has been keen to establish a Canberra connection for years, last floating the idea in 2007, and has been in talks with the NCA for about a year.
It envisages three return flights a day – flights for business, tourism and leisure. The Cessna can carry 10 passengers but the company’s larger aircraft can take at least 15.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the demonstration flight was a positive first step to unlocking a great product and experience for Canberra.
”It will assist shaping perceptions of the city, appropriate use of the lake and will give visitors a unique way of engaging with Canberra and the many other great things to see and do in our city,” he said.
NCA Chief Executive Sally Barnes said the regulatory agencies see no impediment to establishing the service, but the proposal had raised many questions about how it would work.
”We figured the best way to actually test the concept was to do a demonstration flight – one only – and then after that we’ll do community consultation around the terms and conditions of the licence, where they’ll land, where they’ll tie up, and what other sorts of equipment they’ll need,” she said.
Ms Barnes said the demonstration flight would land in Westlake near Springbank Island, and motor to a jetty near the National Museum of Australia.
It would take off over the lake towards the Airport or over the National Arboretum.
Consultation would consider issues such as including noise, refuelling, landing and take-off requirements, public safety, impact on the environment, heritage and infrastructure needs.
Ms Barnes said the company was very experienced and already operated in sensitive and busy environments, particularly Sydney Harbour where there are 20,000 boats (around 52 per square kilometre).
She said the company believed that there was a real market for a quick hop to Canberra, with the trip to the Lake only taking an hour, cutting out travel time to Sydney Airport, parking and taxiing.
”So it’s literally for some people wanting to come to Canberra for businesses purposes door-to-door in an hour,” she said.
”You’re coming right into the city, you’re leaving Sydney from an area where people can get to just as easily if not more so than the Airport, and you’ve got one hop.”
She hopes that eventually the company would develop packages with the national institutions and tourism operators.
”It has huge potential for 2021 post-COVID recovery,” Ms Barnes said. “It could be a real bonus to the national capital.”
The NCA has been moving to broaden the scope of how the Lake is used and the idea fits with this.
”We’re open to bringing people to Canberra, open to making the national capital more accessible, open to making it a bit more surprising , and making people take a second look at the opportunity,” Ms Barnes said.
She said the idea deserved to be taken seriously.
”Let’s do a demonstration, see if it can work, and can add to the flavour of the national capital,” Ms Barnes said.
”Until you actually see it, I think it’s difficult to imagine what it is and what an impact it might have.”
If the demonstration flight shows that the service could work on the lake, in depth consultation on the proposal would likely begin in the New Year.
Sydney Seaplanes was approached for comment.