Cape Air is exploring operating a seaplane service between Boston Harbor and Manhattan, the second airline to attempt a water-based shuttle between the two cities.
Chief executive Dan Wolf said his company recently began supporting the operations of a seaplane route between Miami and the Bahamas to gain experience, and hopes to get the Boston-New York routes underway within the next two years.
“We’d like to start by doing four trips a day in each direction,” Wolf said.
The trip between Boston’s waterfront to a seaplane dock on the East River in Manhattan would take about an hour and 15 minutes, Wolf added, and would eliminate the additional travel by taxi or car to and from the airport in each city. Cape Air would use a single-engine Cessna Caravan that seats nine passengers.
Another airline, Tailwind, announced a similar seaplane service last year, but has yet to find docking space in Boston Harbor. So for now, the Boston end of the trip ends on land — at Hanscom Field in Bedford — while the company continues talks with the Federal Aviation Administration about a seaplane base.
Michael Siegel, the director of operations for Tailwind, said dockage space in Boston Harbor for a seaplane is in short supply.
“It’s been difficult so far, as a lot of the land is owned by Massport and then the rest of it is privately owned and under pretty strict regulation about what they can do with the docks and their marinas,” he said.
Siegel said Tailwind had approached Massport about docking at the South Boston Marine Terminal. While that site wasn’t available, Siegel said Massport introduced Tailwind to private landowners, and Tailwind is currently in talks with them.
“We’ve been working both avenues,” Siegel said. “We felt it was prudent to have a plan B.”
For Cape Air, Wolf said his company has also discussed a seaplane dock with waterfront property owners and public officials. Wolf said Cape Air is also setting up meetings with the Coast Guard.
“A lot of entities have to be at the table to discuss whether it’s feasible,” said Wolf, adding, “this is not something that is a fait accompli. We want to make sure it’s compatible with the users of Boston Harbor and the waterfront.”
Wolf said Cape Air’s ideal scenario would be to find a dock in Boston within walking distance of the Financial District.
Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Ronaydee Marquez said her agency does not directly regulate or certify seaplane companies, but will advise the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure the pilots know the rules and hazards of navigating in Boston Harbor.
“When the plane hits the water and becomes quote-unquote a vessel, she follows the rules that every other vessel does,” Marquez said.
A spokeswoman for the FAA said she could not comment on the agency’s communications with Tailwind and Cape Air.
Several other cities besides New York have passenger seaplane service, notably Seattle, Vancouver, and Sydney.
Wolf described himself as “an experienced seaplane pilot” who, in the 1980s, taught others how to fly the craft at Chatham Municipal Airport on the Cape. He said that the relationship with the operator of the Miami-to-Bimini, Bahamas, route is “an opportunity for us to learn the business, and go through the regulatory process with the FAA,” which must eventually give Cape Air permission to operate seaplanes, in the form of an additional operating certificate.
Tailwind, meanwhile, this summer is operating three round-trips a week between Bedford and Manhattan. Michael Ritzi, the company’s director of new business, said Tailwind’s service would be seasonal, running from early March to early November, while Wolf hopes Cape Air will operate year-round, though with fewer flights during the winter when ice buildup could limit water landings.