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Operating float planes on lakes

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olgol

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Nov 13, 2007
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I need some basic help with the regulations related to operating float planes on lakes within or near city limits, or anywhere not in the wild open places.

What are the requirements to float planes as far as water operations are concerned? Are they treated same as water vessels and must they comply with all regulations for the boats (life jackets, sound devices, fuel tank venting, etc.)?

Who controls the operations - who do I ask about taking off and landing on a lake? The local Park & Recreation department? Are there any federal regs about this? Or is this totally up to the local "controlling agency" to disallow flying on a lake?

I have a small lake with a park and boat launching ramps within 5 miles of my house. So I always wonder, maybe I should think about building a float plane and solve the airfield issue by flying off this lake?..
 

Topaz

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...Who controls the operations - who do I ask about taking off and landing on a lake? The local Park & Recreation department? Are there any federal regs about this? Or is this totally up to the local "controlling agency" to disallow flying on a lake?

I have a small lake with a park and boat launching ramps within 5 miles of my house. So I always wonder, maybe I should think about building a float plane and solve the airfield issue by flying off this lake?..
Who owns the lake? You'll need their permission to fly off of their property, just as if it were some farmer's field or other such property. Once you're in the air the FAA has jurisdiction, but on the water/ground, the permission comes from the property owner.

However... If the lake is used for boating and there's a park nearby, your chances of actually getting the owner's permission is virtually nil. Especially if it's owned by the city. For one, the owner won't want to risk his boat-launching revenue for one airplane owner, and for another, it's virtually guaranteed that his/their insurance will prohibit such mixed operations. The nearby park just makes it worse.

If the lake lies within the limits of some city, he'll almost certainly have to obtain a conditional use permit to use the lake for (your) aircraft operations. There will be public hearing (or other means of letting the locals speak on the subject) before the permit is granted. For example, back when I was a kid, my dad's neighbor wanted to put a helipad on his property. The city, as part of the process for developing the conditional use permit for that type of operation within city limits, polled the neighbors for their thoughts on granting the permit (basically this was in lieu of holding a public hearing on the subject, since it impacted a very small area of the city). Not surprisingly, the permit was denied, largely upon the requests of the neighbors.

It's still worth asking, but don't be surprised if the answer is a very quick "NO!"
 

Dana

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There's nothing at the federal level, unless it's water under federal control (like a National Park or such). Nor is it a vessel, since it's an aircraft. There may be state or local regulations governing operations off a particular body of water (or piece of ground, for that matter). In NJ, for example, it's illegal to operate any aircraft except from a state approved airport. In CT, any more than 32 takeoffs or landings per year at a single location requires state landing field approval. Other states may have no rules at all, or town zoning regulations may apply. Some town or city governments with too much time on their hands tend to pass laws prohibiting anything not specifically permitted, while others only address problems as they come up.

-Dana

Friends help you move. *Real* friends help you move bodies.
 

orion

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Jurisdictional issues can be difficult to identify since it's not always clear who has control over what body of water. But given certain impetus, quite draconian measures can be enacted, even by a small controlling interest. For instance, quite some time ago in Washington State it used to be OK to operate out of pretty much any lake or body of water as long as said operation did not endanger anyone on the ground or, of course, irk the neighbors. Given the number of great destinations we have here, about twenty years ago I was about to set out on the process of getting a sea-plane rating.

However, as I was about to do this, the state (I'm not sure which arm of the bureaucracy) clamped down, restricting operations to not only just a small handful of lakes but also setting limits on where on the lake you can operate from. The result was that suddenly virtually all back-country lakes became off limits. It didn't seem to matter whether the lake was in a federal forest or on state land.

I seem to recall a story of someone landing on one of the back-country lakes shortly after this was enacted, with the unlucky fortune of ending up near a rather literal enforcement official who proceeded to padlock the airplane, preventing the owner from flying out. To get the airplane out, the owner had to first pay a hefty fine and then bring in a crew, who had to disassemble the airplane and actually pack it out to a trail-head where it was loaded on a truck and hauled to the local airport for re-assembly. Apparently this was feasible since the trail-head was relatively close and the trail was wide enough to allow wheeled flats for hauling the heavier elements.

Whether this is actually true or not I don't know since I did not witness said event personally but, I did hear the story from several individuals, including the sea-plane FBO's instructor (and this was some time before Internet urban legends), so I think it might at least have an element of fact. How big that element is, I don't know.

Either way though, getting permission to operate your plane off of any body of water where the public has regular access would be step one.
 

Topaz

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I suppose I should qualify my earlier post to say that all of my experience has been in the State of California. AFAIK, many cities here go so far as to require a formal environmental impact report prior to the public hearing for a conditional use permit. My glider club was looking at a potential move due to some (now defunct) real estate development, and we found out that starting a new airport - even a private one - requires such involvement, including getting CalTrans involved somehow. A paperwork nightmare.
 

Dana

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With te PPG's we run into the "can we fly here?" issue all the time. The best approach seems to be to quietly investigate the regulations first, then take the approach (if it's true), "well, there's no rules against it, so..." Of course an airplane is far more intimidating than a PPG, and PPG's are so new that most people have never even heard of one, let alone passed laws against them (yes, I know, they're ultralights under Part 103 but nobody around here seems to think any state or local "aircraft" regulations apply, which is a good thing!)

-Dana

There are 3 kinds of people: those who can count & those who can't.
 

pwood66889

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Sopchoppy, Florida, USA
The State of Oregon is pretty straight forward. If it is on the water, it is a boat. And has all the appertaining rules. From the time your airplane starts it's take-off run until it slows after landing, it is an airplane and the FAA has jurisdiction. Now, that is on "Navigable waterways." Don't know about Washington State - the two share the Columbia River, and the Columbia Seaplane Pilots Association has held yearly fly-ins thereon.
Suppose I should inquire about New Mexico because that is where I live now. I believe there are two splash downs available.
Percy
 

FlyteTyger

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May 11, 2008
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I've had this same question. I'm just beginning in my quest to fly, but one of my goals is to combine flying with another of my hobbies, back packing. The area we go camping and backpacking in is a Forest Service park (Land Between the Lakes for you folks nearby, http://lbl.org) surrounded by lake. Now the lake is huge, and gets commercial traffic as well as recreational use. Obviously, nothing would be cooler than flying in and setting up camp on the shore :D

I always figured I'd turn to the rangers when I got closer to the reality. They're responsible for managing safe use of the resources, and have always found them to be knowledgeable in the past. If you're talking about a similar situation, a national or state park, a call to the park's ranger station should get you pointed in the right direction fairly quickly.
 
Last edited:

FlyteTyger

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In a strange coincidence, I found this quite by accident in my state laws (TN). Good news for me, at least :gig:

RULES OF
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
AERONAUTICS DIVISION
CHAPTER 1680-1-2
LICENSING AND REGISTRATION OF AIRPORTS

...

1680-1-2-.02 DEFINITIONS.

(1) For purposes of this rule, the following terms are defined:
(a) “Aircraft” includes barren, airplane, hydroplane, and every other vehicle used for navigation
through the air. A hydroplane. while at rest on water and while being operated on or immediately above water, shall be governed by the rules regarding water navigation; while being operated through the air otherwise than immediately above water, it shall be treated as
an aircraft.

...
 

Dana

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What's a "barren"???

-Dana

Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip? To get to the other, er, um....
 

WurlyBird

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May 31, 2008
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189
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Khowst City, Afghanistan
The area we go camping and backpacking in is a Forest Service park (Land Between the Lakes for you folks nearby, http://lbl.org) surrounded by lake.
Get a sectional for the area and check it out, but I am pretty sure that Land Between the Lakes is a wildlife preserve and as such you are supposed to maintain 2000' agl. Not 100% sure on this but there are a few in the area. I also don't know if it would encompass the entirety of the lakes or not. I live about an hour east of LBL as the crow drives and have thought of it as a nice place to go if I ever get to float flying like I hope.

So if the wildlife preserve does not encompass the whole lake, can you land outside of the preserve and then "boat" to shore in your plane?
 

Kmccune

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Aug 5, 2007
Messages
162
I don't know where the original poster is from, but in WI if there is a stream or creek or river that goes in or out that is navigable during high water mark, ( even if you have to portage and cut brush) you can walk up the dry creek bed to go fishing on the shore... well just inside the high water mark. So unless it is spring fed and has no real out let then its fair game ( in WI) . Lake associations could cause you problems, if you are being a bother though. Local ordnances could be an issue as well. Good luck I hope to have float when I get done, because there are a lot of lakes in WI :^)

kevin


Who owns the lake? You'll need their permission to fly off of their property, just as if it were some farmer's field or other such property. Once you're in the air the FAA has jurisdiction, but on the water/ground, the permission comes from the property owner.

However... If the lake is used for boating and there's a park nearby, your chances of actually getting the owner's permission is virtually nil. Especially if it's owned by the city. For one, the owner won't want to risk his boat-launching revenue for one airplane owner, and for another, it's virtually guaranteed that his/their insurance will prohibit such mixed operations. The nearby park just makes it worse.

If the lake lies within the limits of some city, he'll almost certainly have to obtain a conditional use permit to use the lake for (your) aircraft operations. There will be public hearing (or other means of letting the locals speak on the subject) before the permit is granted. For example, back when I was a kid, my dad's neighbor wanted to put a helipad on his property. The city, as part of the process for developing the conditional use permit for that type of operation within city limits, polled the neighbors for their thoughts on granting the permit (basically this was in lieu of holding a public hearing on the subject, since it impacted a very small area of the city). Not surprisingly, the permit was denied, largely upon the requests of the neighbors.

It's still worth asking, but don't be surprised if the answer is a very quick "NO!"
 

rchrds

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Dec 8, 2005
Messages
4
Late posting, but only the land between the lakes at LBL is actually a wildlife preserve- the water is not included. The military (and the FAA) in most cases fail to make this distinction, which is where the earlier poster is confused.

And for the poster immediately above- states vary significantly on the "navigable waterway" laws. Florida is similar to that quoted above, where the high water line determines the waterway, yet this is not always enforced or enforceable. (I've more than once been kicked out of narrow rivers that were declared "private property" illegally.) TN and TX are different matters- neither, to my knowledge have navigable waterway laws- Texas so much that if water flows over your property, it IS your property, and with few exceptions you may use it and control access to it as you wish.
 

RacerCFIIDave

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Feb 8, 2008
Messages
412
Location
Asheville, NC
Only a Government could say or do something that stupid...:)

Think about those idiotic '80's door mounted seat belts in cars...

Would any engineer do that without Govt interference? I think not...

Dave
 
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