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A Call for Action – Seaplane Advocacy

July 12, 2009

Seaplane operations on Lake Springfield, Springfield, Illinois


Dr. Joel Schneider of Springfield Illinois has been working for 4 years to have an ordinance declared unconstitutional which prohibits any flying device ascents and descents (includes seaplane operations) on or from Lake Springfield, which abuts his residence.  The ordinance was voted in place in 1979 following a sailboat incident where its mast collided with low hanging power lines in a small end of the lake (the power lines since removed).  The incident caused two fatalities, but had nothing to do with seaplanes or any aircraft.  After this incident the City Council enacted the ordinance banning all aircraft from the lake, even though seaplanes had a previous history of safely using the lake.

Lake Springfield 2Joel and his family have a Cessna 185 on Wipline amphibious floats.  For over 20 years they have owned property, a beautiful home and shore line on Lake Springfield.  Joel has often commented about how perfect it would be to be able to keep the plane at his home (a common occurrence for anyone who flies seaplanes and owns lake frontage).  Lake Springfield’s main basin is more than one mile across and more than 5 miles long and is more than adequate for any type of seaplane operations.  It is located southeast of the city’s downtown area. It hosts all types of recreational uses, power boats and yes, that’s right, even sailboats. Previous attempts to work with the city produced no results so Joel filed suit against the City of Springfield.

On June 17th 2009 the Sangamon County Court, Springfield, Illinois, heard the case of Joel Schneider vs. the City of Springfield, Illinois.  This suit was brought forth by Dr. Schneider through his legal counsel, Mr. Stephen Scott of Scott & Scott, P.C.  He testified in court along with Mr. Dale Rust from IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation), Mr. Gordon Olson SPA Field Director for Illinois, and Mr. John Petschelt, 777 captain, seaplane pilot andLake Springfield member of the Lake County Sheriff’s department marine unit for the Chain ‘O Lakes area of Northern Illinois.  Testimony given was aimed at suitability of the landing area, safety of operations, environmental & noise issues and compatibility with boats and other recreational traffic.  Gordon Olson SPA field director took this opportunity to show SPA’s “Flying Americas Waterways” video.  He said “the video was a major tool to help educate, promote and support safety of seaplane operations”.  Mr. Olson also commented that the major factor in municipalities enacting these types of ordnances is the lack of knowledge and experience with seaplane operations and their pilots.

As of this writing no ruling has been received.  The SPA has provided written testimony on behalf of the seaplane community and supports Mr. Schneider.  We’re looking forward to a positive outcome.

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