New Seaplane Service to Link NYC, Boston and D.C.

 - July 4, 2014, 3:10 AM
Tailwind will fly to and from the East River in New York but use hard runways in Boston and Washington.

A new seaplane service connecting New York City with Boston and Washington, D.C., will make its debut this month. Tailwind Air Service has partnered with established New England seaplane operator and charter provider Fly the Whale and will conduct morning flights aimed at business travelers, using amphibious Cessna 208 Caravans departing 23rd Street on Manhattan’s East River.

“We’ve had the most interest in flights that leave New York City at 8 a.m. and then arrive in either Boston or D.C. by 9:30,” said company president Melissa Tomkiel. “As of right now there is also a lot of interest for flights that return from Boston or D.C. around 4 or 4:30 [p.m.].” For those flights, passengers need to arrive 20 minutes before departure, an obvious convenience and time saver for Manhattanites who would otherwise have to head to La Guardia Airport for an airline shuttle. Costs for the approximately one-and-a-quarter-hour flights will range from $450 to $650 each way, with “significant” corporate and commuter discounts available.

While the Caravans will make a water departure and landing in New York, current plans have them landing on hard runways at Boston Logan Airport and Washington Dulles. Boston has no infrastructure to receive floatplanes at its downtown waterfront, and in Washington security is still too restrictive for water operations. “We have already started the wheels in motion to get some infrastructure in Boston to land on the water there,” Tomkiel told AIN, adding that she expects facilities will be in place to support the service by next year. “D.C. is more of a battle, but we’ve already contacted the appropriate people,” she said.

Tailwind acquired a used Caravan that received a cabin refurbishment and new paint before it was ready to join with Fly the Whale’s amphibious 208 to inaugurate the service. Both aircraft are configured with Cessna’s nine-seat commuter interior.

While service will begin with one round trip per day, Tomkiel expects demand eventually will warrant two a day. “We know that the current air services–Delta and the US Airways shuttle to La Guardia–move about 3,000 people a day on this route,” she said. “We have a nine-passenger airplane, so it’s just a small piece of the market required for us to do this.”

Tailwind is already looking ahead to larger aircraft. “There are decisions to be made about which type is perfect, but [New York City] is on board infrastructure-wise to provide us with the facilities a larger aircraft would require,” Tomkiel said. In particular, the company is mulling the adoption of vintage flying boats and has several advisors who formerly operated aircraft such as the Grumman Albatross. A brief Internet search found several readily available, with prices ranging from $177,500 to $1.5 million.

“Bringing those airplanes back into service as commuters would really be an accomplishment,” said Tomkiel. “It would be a massive undertaking to bring them up to [Part] 135 standards and to the standards of quality we want to offer the customer.”