What on Earth Am I Doing as a Field Director for the State of Maine!
What I’ve done in the past 8 years is to put on a day long Seaplane Safety Expo. This day long event was not meant to take over from our former Field Director, nor was it meant to be the only annual Seaplane Seminar in Maine. As an FAA Safety Counselor it is my responsibility to put on Safety Seminars and since we had the facilities to do so, and the help from the Katahdin Wings (Maine’s Chapter of the 99s) I started this event. I’m sure that taking this action was looked upon differently by others, but that’s what I did.
This year I’ve been concerned that I was not doing enough as a Field Director. When seaplane pilots were referred to me I honestly didn’t know what I could do. I learned from their hard work and accomplishments. However, my lack of participations made it look like the Seaplane Pilot’s Association was not giving them any support. Not good!
One evening in February I received a phone call from Roger Currier, a seaplane operator from Greenville Junction asking me if I knew of some legislation that was being presented in reference to the closing of West Harbor Pond in Boothbay Harbor. No, I was only aware of a letter from the Code Enforcement Officer of Boothbay Harbor dated September 23, 2008 to the Pilots who had seaplanes on West Harbor Pond alerting them of several complaints that had been received during the past 2 years. In talking to the Code Enforcement Officer I found he had no jurisdiction and he was tired of the complaints. One of the pilots said he would take care of the situation and that was the last I had heard of the complaints. In hind sight, I should have followed up.
Roger went on to tell me about a legislature who was also a pilot who called him knowing that this bill was being proposed in such a fashion to avoid opposition. Later that night Attorney Craig Dotolo from AOPA called to let me know what I should be doing. In the next few days, Craig and I had several conversations a day. We were busy trying to sort out the existing laws in Maine pertaining to seaplanes only to find there are none. You may say, “Lucky you”, but I’m beginning to wonder if in fact that really is a good thing. I know, I know, you’re ready to pounce on me, but just a minute. Without any entity being held responsible for us, that leaves the Seaplane Pilots to govern. That’s all well and good, but all it takes is one or two pilots to have our freedom taken away. That is not the case in Boothbay Harbor. The neighbors are very concerned about the increase in activity and they don’t want the increase to continue. Their answer is to stop all seaplanes from coming and going into West Harbor Pond. If that happens a prescient will be set and that king of control will spread throughout the State of Maine like wildfire. Is having a law about this a good idea? NO you say. Well I say NO, TOO!
In the Legislative Hearing and subsequent Work Session along with the Selectmen’s meeting there has never been a hotter issue presented. There has been standing room only and fortunately the Seaplane Pilots are the only ones NOT screaming at each other. Never has there been such a large attendance at any of these meetings. Something has to be done. None of these public assistants want to go through this again and I can assure you I don’t either. I’ve missed days of work, days off with my husband and many hours of sleep.
In the past, for a variety of reasons, seaplane pilots have been coming to the table offering to help in a variety of ways. Some have been noise abatement issues, some pilots have been trained for milfoil detection and volunteering their services along with their planes to detect milfoil infestations. I’m sure many more that I’m not aware of. This is very much to be admired. I feel honored to be associated with such a fine group of Americans.
As much as this volunteer work is so admired, it is still not enough. We need to be proactive and get out there and volunteer BEFORE we are perceived as trespassers and “people out there who obviously have disposable funds”. (Make sure you don’t think that is my opinion, because I think you deserve to own a plane and fly if you have managed to get where you are today. This is a wonderful Country we live in!)
Now, as a Field Director I know the laws in the State of Maine. I know why people buy property on small ponds (I never did understand that before) and I know how much trouble this small group can cause. I have learned a great deal about the Legislative process and now I’m ready to work the system to our favor.
I want to bring to the Towns in our State an offer to assist them in any way we can. It happens to be milfoil this year, but maybe there is a sick child in a community where the family does not enough resources to care for him/her. How about offering a scenic flight to be given in an auction for this cause? I guarantee they will not have a higher bid for anything else auctioned off.
Field Directors…..if you’re in the same boat (plane) as I, this is what I suggest:
1. Find out what the laws are in your State pertaining to seaplanes
2. Become an FAA Safety Counselor (this gives you lots of credibility when you speak to your Legislative bodies)
3. Put on Seaplane Safety Seminars annually
4. Most importantly, have your pilots in your State find out what they can do to actively participate in their community
5. Make a list of suggestions and have all the suggestions available to other Field Directors on the SPA Web site.
6. Pass along the word to all seaplane pilots to limit their activity in small ponds and limit yourself to 2 take offs and landings in one spot.
The following is what one of the pilots on the lake and Attorney Craig Dotolo came up with:
1. Restrict any and all commercial operations on the pond.
2. Eliminate all “touch and go” landings on the pond.
3. Discourage a series of repeated operations within a close period of time.
4. Voluntarily restrict landing and take-offs until 7:00 AM seven days a week
5. The seaplane owners proposed hosting a non-profit charity event at West Harbor Pond, in which their aircraft would be used in some fashion to raise funding for a local charity. This event would be coordinated and executed with the concurrence from the community.
My opinion on #5 is that the neighbors are complaining about too much activity on the lake and perhaps an auction for one seaplane flight would be more appropriate.
Aren’t we lucky to be able to come and go without being shot down? If we are not careful this is what is going to happen. It may not be bullets that will stop us, but regulations will.
As of this date the Legislature has asked the Representative who brought forth the bill to consider the offers of the seaplane pilots. He was asked to put together a group of 4 and bring back to the Legislature the agreement between the two opposing groups in two weeks. We are now 10 days into the 2 weeks and the Representative has lost my e-mail with my available time once and not scheduled any meeting to discuss this issue, yet.
Now I know what I’m doing as a Field Director for the State of Maine and delighted to have some direction. Thanks to the SPA for your confidence in me!