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North Country Pilots Take Appeal to the Governor

April 28, 2011

SPA Advocacy – Sometimes Behind the Scenes

January 13, 2011

SPA sometimes receives concerns that we did not engage in one advocacy issue or another or that we didn’t approach an advocacy problem in the manner that they thought was most appropriate.  Some of these concerns over the years could have merit and if you should reach this conclusion regarding a seaplane issue, we hope you will call SPA directly and share your concerns.

Field Director Randy Strebig presenting to decision-makers in Columbia City, IN, 2010

As you know, our association has Field Directors in every part of the country and in Canada.  Most of these volunteers do an excellent job of direct engagement in regional issues, whether it be in attending public hearings, speaking with key players in advocacy issues, or rallying local response to an issue.  Wise stewardship of membership funds as well as the increased situational awareness of these local active pilots yields a powerful advocacy presence for SPA.  Field directors keep SPA headquarters informed of ongoing seaplane developments and request additional resources and assistance as needed.

Not all SPA advocacy interactions can be reported.  Sometimes negotiations or agreements could be compromised by public discussions of the issue.  Remember that SPA’s prime mission is keeping our waterways open – advocacy.   We are not fundamentally a news organization.  In circumstances where reporting the advocacy may jeopardize advocacy outcomes, the advocacy agenda will trump the Water Flying story.

What Does SPA Do For Me?

January 13, 2011

A legitimate question to ask ourselves from time to time is why join and support a particular organization.  What does this organization “do for me”?  Let’s pose the question for our association – “What Does SPA Do for Me?”

#1 – SPA – The Only National Advocate Exclusively for the Seaplane Community

The Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA) is a non-profit organization serving the needs of the seaplane community throughout North America, as well as globally. Incorporated in 1971, the primary mission of the Seaplane Pilots Association is Advocacy. Our mission is to be the voice of the seaplane community and to aggressively advocate for seaplane waterway access on the federal, state, and local levels. SPA ensures fairness and equality for seaplanes to share public waterways with all other user groups.

Hundreds of previously closed lakes have been opened to seaplane access in the past 3 years alone through the persistence of SPA advocacy initiatives (see the “Advocacy” category on the SPA Blog and SPA Forum for details). SPA’s associated 501(c)(3) , The Seaplane Pilots Foundation (SPF), is on the cutting edge of invasive species research and education (see the article on page 18 of the Sept/Oct ’10 Water Flying Magazine).  No other organization in the nation is doing this level of work on invasive species as related to seaplane operations.  Through the rapidly growing financial prowess of the SPF along with the backing of its top ranking legal firm partner, your association is more capable than ever before in its history in combating the rising tide of anti-seaplane regulations from coast to coast.

To be sure, SPA doesn’t prevail in every advocacy battle – we have had disappointments.  Our overall record, however, is exemplary.   Representing water access for the seaplane community is the number one mission of SPA.  No one does it better.

#2 – Water Flying Magazine

The premier publication of the Seaplane Pilots Association – the only nationally published seaplane magazine in the world. For those who love seaplanes, WaterFlying Magazine has been called the “National Geographic” of water flying adventure and technical expertise – spectacular imagery and engaging journalism! WaterFlying writers and photographers brilliantly capture the magic, heritage, and techniques of the world of seaplanes with distinction and pizzazz, winning the accolades of national publishers and top ranking journalists.

The production and distribution of Water Flying is the single most expensive item in SPA’s annual budget.  The quality of content and physical layout and construction exceed national publications from companies many times larger than SPA.  Your association devotes such a large portion of its resources to Water Flying because our members have told us again and again how important this publication is to you.  “What has SPA done for me?”  Water Flying magazine provides a significant part of that answer in every issue.

#3 – Safety, Education, and Environmental Stewardship

Water flying accidents lead to the public perception that seaplanes are inherently unsafe.  Even a relatively minor seaplane “incident” in a New England pond can become viral nationwide “news” the following day.  A perceived concern for seaplane safety is the number one reason lakes are closed to water flying access.  Seaplane safety is an integral part of seaplane advocacy.

Each year SPA produces and hosts a nationally televised seaplane safety program, safety seminars at regional events throughout the country, and publishes professional seaplane safety literature from leading water flying authors.  Invasive species and other aquatic environmental concerns are fast becoming the 2nd largest reason to ban seaplanes.  As discussed above, the Seaplane Pilots Foundation sponsors scientific research on these issues as they directly impact seaplane operations and waterway access.

Earlier this year, SPA worked hard to convince senior FAA leaders to bring back the discontinued FAA Water Wings safety program.  Sea Wings is a structured recurrent training program consisting of both course work and flight training to help maintain pilot proficiency and build new skills.   Through a cooperative agreement with FAA, the Seaplane Pilots Association will provide Sea Wings lapel pins to seaplane pilots who complete each phase of this excellent FAA proficiency program.

#4 – SPA Online – Website, Forum, Newsletter, and Blog

One of SPA’s top 2010 priorities was to revitalize the Forum and Website.  The Forum in particular needed serious attention, so this became “job 1”.  Extraordinary resources in time and finances were devoted to building a new forum from scratch.  What appeared to be a simple job to many, was in fact extremely complex due to SPA’s many imbedded interactive databases and directories.

Hopefully you have now experienced the results of these efforts with the mid-summer launch of the brand new SPA Forum.  With picture posting capabilities and many other bells and whistles, the new forum has earned the praises of even its harshest critics as it becomes the “water cooler” conversation center of the seaplane community.  As events, news, or gossip unfolds throughout the water flying world, you’ll learn about it first here at the SPA Forum.

Scheduled for publication in the last quarter of 2010 is the complete revision of the SPA website.  The new website will bring exciting new features such as a homepage Photo Gallery and new Classified section with picture-posting capacity.  Along with the new look and feel will come the feature members have been asking for most – a unified log in.  Members will have a single log in for the website, forum, classified, or wherever else you want to go in the SPA Online world!

Your newsletter, Water Flying Update, compliments and fills in the news gap between magazine issues.  It is up-to-the-second current and provides a depth of coverage not possible within the space constraints of a physical publication.  Your newsletter is delivered exclusively through your email account so be sure the SPA office has your preferred email address (send an email to, subject “Newsletter” to ensure your next issue).

SPA online media have become the interactive, real time voice of the seaplane community.  These media require significant resources to produce and maintain.  We hope they are important to you and you recognize the value they contribute to your SPA membership. 

#5  – SPA Doesn’t Stand Alone – Powerful Partnerships and Alliances

SPA has developed a network of partners both at the national, international, and regional levels.  SPA’s partnerships with AOPA span many years.  Senior AOPA leaders provided helpful guidance in establishing the Seaplane Pilots Foundation    On many advocacy projects SPA works in tandem with other organizations to share information, resources, and manpower.  Some of these initiatives are joint ventures with our partners while others are parallel efforts to magnify the impact and add numeric strength to the causes.

SPA recognizes the value of local seaplane group affiliations and encourages our members to support them.  The seaplane community is strengthened by the cooperation and mutual support of both local and national affiliations.  The national essence of SPA contributes advocacy access, unequalled communications, and numeric relevance.  Regional groups provide unmatched community intimacy and geographic proximity that enhance advocacy efforts.  As a unified team, SPA and partner associations make a powerful ally for the seaplane community.

#6 – A Single Voice

The Seaplane Pilots Association and the Seaplane Pilots Foundation are the adhesive that binds the water flying community into a unified force.  Without SPA we would still be a small collection of individual pilots, widely scattered regional groups, and commercial operations .  Our organization provides the seaplane community a respected and recognized national voice, a platform for discourse, and a deep resource for problem solving.  And SPA is the only organization that devotes 100% of its efforts to the needs of water fliers throughout North America and globally.  SPA embodies the talents, skills, resources, and the hopes and dreams of thousands of us who love water flying.

Has SPA earned your support?

We’ve only discussed six of the many services SPA provides – “six things SPA does for you”.  We haven’t yet touched on others like the Water Landing Directory, free Classifieds, exclusive SPA member insurance discount rates, personalized local water flying assistance and information provided by the resources of the experienced SPA Field Directors in every region of the country (and Canada), SPA support for local and regional splash-in’s,  the fabulous SPA Corn Roast at Oshkosh, or Greenville’s complimentary member shipboard breakfast.

Our “bill-of-fare” hasn’t changed in over eight years, in spite of sky rocketing costs in every facet of our endeavor.   Delivering these services consistently requires significant funding resources.  Thanks to the Seaplane Pilots Foundation and support of generous donors from throughout the country, your association is making tremendous strides in keeping our waterways open to seaplane access.

If you recognize the value that our organization provides each of us everyday, we all need you to help sustain our mission.   Be an SPA ambassador and encourage others to join and give SPA memberships as gifts.   Lend a hand at our booths at a show during the coming season.   Write an article and send us your photos for SPA publications.  Make a tax-deductible donation to the Seaplane Pilots Foundation and consider a legacy gift in your will.   Help ensure that our grandchildren also are able to experience the joy of water flying and have access to our public recreational waters.

2010 Annual Membership Meeting Minutes

November 22, 2010



NOVEMBER 17, 2010


Walter Windus, Chairman of the Board                 Timothy Whalen, Member
J.J. Frey, President of Board                                     Lou Amato, Member
Randy Juen, Vice President of Board                     Ken Brice, Member
Phil Lockwood, Director of Board                           Ed McNeil, Member
James McManus, Executive Director                    Eric Weaver, Member

Walter Windus called the meeting to order at 2:03 p.m.

SPA Bylaws require 625 members, including proxies, to make a quorum.  Windus presented 1120 official proxy ballots to attendees.  The 2010 Membership Meeting attendance exceeded the quorum.

Windus presented documentation of the official notice of the meeting, published in the September/October 2010 issue of Water Flying magazine.

Windus presented the minutes of the 2009 Annual Membership Meeting that was held in Lakeland, FL on November 4, 2009.  J.J. Frey moved to dispense with the reading of, and approve the 2009 minutes.  The motion was seconded by Randy Juen and passed unanimously.

Financial Report – presented by James McManus.  SPA is operating in the black at the conclusion of Third Quarter.  Unbudgeted costs for website revision (estimated at around $10,000) are expected in Fourth Quarter.

Chairman’s Report – presented by Walter Windus.  The three top 2011 SPA priorities are Membership (which directly impacts advocacy effectiveness), Advocacy (with a goal of maintaining seaplane access levels which support coast-to-coast straight float travel), and Water Flying magazine (the chairman expressed that the magazine was SPA’s greatest asset).

Board of Director Election Lou Amato moved to elect the current slate of SPA Board of Directors.  The motion was seconded by J.J. Frey and passed unanimously.  The 2011 SPA Board was duly elected by unanimous vote of members present and the 1120 proxy votes.

Jon Eriksson                             Phil Lockwood
J.J. Frey                                     Lyle Panepinto
Ronald Golden                         Gordon Richardson
Bruce Hinds                               Walter Windus
Randy Juen

New Business

Seaplane Pilots Foundation Ed McNeil, Chairman of the Foundation, expressed his belief that the Foundation could raise around $1 million fairly quickly, assuming a well-defined purpose and credible program.  Beyond the initial contributions, long-term potential for bequests and estate planning are viable.  Currently the Foundation has $220,000 in cash invested at Goldman Sachs, earning more than 10% in a bond with a face yield of 14%.  Another $200,000 in pledges has been made to the Foundation.   For the 2010 fiscal year, the Foundation contributed $7500 to the SPA budget.

Donors have been most interested in advocacy issues, most specifically related to invasive species.  Prospective donors must have confidence that the organization is operated professionally with well-defined purposes and rational priorities.

Shrinking Seaplane Population – Randy Juen noted the national decline in general aviation and the seaplane pilot community due to aging, high costs, increased regulations, and other factors.  He suggested ways SPA members could help inspire prospective pilots by offering seaplane rides to non-seaplane pilots and prospective SPA partnerships with manufacturers, other aviation associations, and scouting groups.

Water Flying Magazine – Phil Lockwood recommended SPA consider publishing an online version of Water Flying magazine to supplement the existing publication (not as a replacement).  An electronic version of the magazine may add potential ad revenue to the magazine and would help reach out to foreign markets by providing an alternative to the high cost of overseas mailing.   An electronic version could readily be translated into multiple languages thereby increasing our readership and advertising markets.

SPA Associate Membership for Non-Pilots – Eric Weaver suggested SPA examine other levels of memberships to inspire non-pilots or non-seaplane rated GA pilots.  For example, a lower cost membership could feature the proposed electronic version of the magazine and other less expensive benefits.

SPA Written Procedures – Walter Windus noted that SPA’s written policies and procedures have not matured with the growth the association.   He has appointed a committee to make recommendations to the board for new written procedures and guidelines.

City of Tavares – Ed McNeil recommended more SPA support for the city of Tavares.  The city has spent over $8 million on seaplane facilities and has formally dubbed itself, “America’s Seaplane City”.  Jim McManus and Eric Weaver reported that seaplane splash-in events are planned for the spring and fall of 2011.

Meeting Adjourned – As there was no further business brought before the floor, a motion was made by J. J. Frey to adjourn the meeting.  The motion was seconded by Phil Lockwood and passed unanimously at 3:00 p.m.


September 10, 2010

Need Your Input to the National Park Service by September 30th to Maintain Seaplane Access at Ross Lake

The National Park Service is creating a management plan for Ross Lake National Recreation Area in Washington State which would affect a wide variety of activities and, as proposed, would essentially eliminate seaplane operations on Ross lake.  Washington Seaplane Pilots’ Association (WA-SPA) is leading the effort along with the Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA), Washington Pilots Association and AOPA to ensure that seaplanes will still have full access to the lake and are calling on individual pilots to register their feedback.

The Seaplane Pilots Association’s position on the Ross Lake General Management Plan is for the Park Service to maintain their current seaplane regulations – they represent excellent management practice.   The very small numbers of water flying visitors to the lake, excellent seaplane safety record, and the absence of public complaints or concerns about seaplane operations demonstrates that the Park’s current management practices produce quality outcomes.

The process
of developing and implementing the General Management Plan involves several steps.  The process begins with public comment hearings, which were conducted throughout the month of July.  SPA’s representative at these meetings has been Steve Ratzlaff, who has done an excellent job of organizing strong local support of SPA members and Washington Seaplane Pilots Association members.   During these meetings the general public, including seaplane interests, have been encouraged to provide input into the proposed GMP.  We need help from everyone who supports seaplane access to our national waters.

Time is running short – Letters needed by Sept. 30, 2010.
Please provide input to the NPS and let them know that access should remain as it is today.

For suggested comments and more information, see [link to article below].

Web Site Detail: “Severe restrictions proposed for access to Ross Lake in Washington State – Deadline for feedback is September 30th, 2010.”

Ross Lake provides a unique experience for seaplane pilots as an extraordinary beautiful lake in a remote environment including campsites (with docks) all maintained by the National Park Service.  It is ideal for seaplane camping and we need to do everything we can to preserve our current access.

Ross Lake was created by the damming of the Skagit River and is in the recreation area of the North Cascades National Park.  Besides seaplanes, the lake may be accessed through the Ross Lake Resort which is situated in a line of twelve individual cabins and three bunkhouses built on log floats.  The Resort maintains boats with outboard motors for traversing the lake.   There are two ways to get to Ross Lake via land; either from the south by foot or ferry, or from the north via Canada and a 30 mile gravel road.  For those pilots on wheels, the nearest airports are Concrete(3W5) and Darrington (1S2).

Many concerned pilots recently attended a series of meetings in Washington hosted by the National Park Service for seaplane pilots and others to discuss the draft general management plan and environmental impact statement.  The park service has created four alternative plans for managing the area, and each would have a different impact on the level of seaplane access.  Their preferred option would limit the seaplanes to the north and south ends of the lake, and prevent access to nearly all acceptable seaplane campsites – the Park Service proposal would essentially eliminate seaplane access.

The pilots attending the meetings presented our case in a professional and polite manner.  They reminded the National Park Service that it had already determined that seaplane operations only numbered one or two dozen a year at the lake and there was no history of complaints about seaplanes.  Pilots in attendance explained that limiting operations to certain areas of the lake wouldn’t be feasible because the aircraft often need to land near the center of the lake for wind conditions, water depth, obstructions, and docking facilities.

The NPS officials appeared to understand that the current proposal was not feasible nor was it fair to seaplane pilots.  Furthermore they saw the significant level of support for maintaining access for floatplanes.

The next stage in the process is for those concerned to submit formal comments regarding the proposed plan to the NPS.  The deadline for submission is September 30th, 2010.
If you are a seaplane pilot now or hope to be in the future, and wish to maintain access to this wonderful location, please submit your comments to the National Park Service.

These should be provided electronically at the following location:

Suggested comments in your personalized letter:

•    I support leaving current access for seaplanes as it is today.  It has worked since inception and there is no data to suggest this might change.
•    Few, if any, noise complaints have been raised by visitors or anyone else.  It is unlikely this will increase as seaplane rated pilots are decreasing in number and Ross remains a relatively remote location.
•    The proposal does not provide adequate and secure/safe campsites to seaplane visitors.  Only north facing campsites provide sufficient protection from the southerly swell.
•    Any concerns about noise or excessive use could be readily addressed through the implementation of a standard noise abatement policy and guidelines for seaplane access.
•    Seaplane noise is limited to the extremely short time during takeoff (1 minute or so)
•    A permit system limiting seaplane access is unnecessary and is not supported.
Additional comments may include:
•    Seaplane use of the park has never been excessive and there is no data to suggest that will changes.  This was also a concern when the prior plan was developed in the 1980’s and excessive use has not since materialized.
•    Seaplanes make less noise then outboard engines in aggregate.  It has been estimated that there are probably less than a dozen seaplanes in a season.  Seaplanes only make sizable noise when taking off which only lasts 30 to 60 seconds.  The total time of noise (in excess of an outboard motor) is no greater than 10 to 12 minutes a year.
•    Seaplanes have historical significance to the northwest and should remain a part of Ross Lake.
•    If access is still provided to motorboats throughout the lake, then it is unfair and unjustified to limit seaplanes access.
•    There are only a limited number of campsites (north facing with a dock) which are well suited for float planes.
•    Seaplanes provide access to the elderly and handicapped, who cannot readily access Ross Lake.
•    The charter for National Recreation Areas states that access should be provided for All modes of Recreation.
•    It is unfair to eliminate access for seaplanes to the preferred campsites.
•    Seaplanes are a classic part of the history of the northwest.
•    Seaplanes are a mode of transportation, unlike jet-skis and ski boats.  They are generally used to access the lake and then leave.  Seaplanes are often used in the same sentence with jet-skis yet they are vastly different in use and noise output.
•    Seaplanes pollute less than any motor boats.  Engine exhaust does not enter the water.
•    Seaplane pilots must be licensed by the federal government and are required to complete recurrent training.  (They are legally bound to not consume alcohol and fly.)  The pilot community is also very effective at policing themselves.  This is one reason few problems occur with those in the seaplane community.
•    Limiting seaplane access to the proposed areas reduces safety by creating artificial barriers.
If you would like to get detailed information about the process and the proposals, download the latest Newsletter from:

Stephen Ratzlaff is SPA’s local representative for the Ross Lake access issue and WA-SPA board member.  For more information, please contact Stephen Ratzlaff at …

Stephen Ratzlaff

SPA Membership Appreciation Breakfast Presented by Aerocet

September 1, 2010

Three years ago SPA selected the Greenville International Seaplane Fly-In as venue for their celebration and special thank you for the support of SPA members throughout the years.   The unique breakfast is held Sunday morning of the show, this year on September 12, onboard the historic logging steamer Katahdin.  All SPA members and their spouses are invited to be our guests for this complimentary shipboard breakfast.  Your friends are most welcome as well, but a $10 donation is requested to help cover the cost of their meal.

The SPA Member Appreciation Breakfast has been presented by Aerocet for the past two years and we are proud to announce they are returning in 2010 as the event’s presenting sponsor. They will be joined this year by co-sponsor North East Husky, of Center Harbor, New Hampshire.

The gangway opens at 8am and extends through 10am Sunday morning. Come hungry, but please RSVP below so we’ll have a total figure to give Katahdin’s chef.

Register for SPA Member Appreciation Breakfast in Greenville, ME  on Eventbrite

Lake Tahoe Seaplane Pilots Legal Defense Fund

August 27, 2010

From Chuck Kimes . . .

In June and July, 2010, a few local seaplane pilots came together to protect the rights of all seaplanes to continue operating on Lake Tahoe.  Engaging a Noise Consultant and Attorney, they were able to turn back a serious proposal by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to permanently ban all seaplane operations, docking facilities and bases on the shoreline of Lake Tahoe.  Now that the victory has been won, the organizers of that effort are left with the legal bills.  To date, only 23 donors have contributed to the Legal Defense Fund. We are now soliciting your contribution to retire the debts that two individuals incurred on behalf of all seaplane pilots and fans of seaplane operations on Lake Tahoe.

Noise Consultant                                                          $1,445.00

Attorneys Fees                                                              $11,445.29

Total Expenses                                                             $12,890.29

Donations Received

Through the SPA Foundation                            $ 2,600.00

Direct Donations                                                          $ 4,351.00

Total Donations                                                            $ 6,951.00

Deficit                                                                                <$ 5,939.29>

Donations to the Lake Tahoe Seaplane Pilots Defense Fund may be sent to:

Lake Tahoe Seaplane Pilots
P.O. Box 945
Zephyr Cove, NV  89448

Or, you may contribute online through the Seaplane Pilots Foundation.