Tailwind Air Faces Uphill Battle for Washington, D.C., Seaplane Flights

Skift grip

Beach-to-beach flights between DC and New York would be cool. They probably aren’t anytime soon.

Edward Russell

If Amtrak’s Acela, three air shuttles and Interstate 95 weren’t enough options to ferry travelers between New York and Washington, DC, there may soon be one more. seaplane operator Downwind wants to add beach-to-beach-front flights to the scrum as early as September.

Although details are scarce, Tailwind on April 29 unveiled plans to offer seaplane flights between New York and Washington, D.C., starting September 7 “subject to approval,” a airline card declared. Tailwind declined to provide any additional details about the service offered, including the time of the flight or their arrival and departure location in DC Tailwind flights arrive and depart in New York from a pier on the east side of Manhattan at the 23rd street.

The argument for Tailwind’s proposal would likely be the same one it uses for its New York-Boston seaplane flights. Travelers arrive and depart from waterfront docks near the centers of both cities where they can save time by skipping journeys to and from airports, as well as beating airport crowds and avoiding long ticket lines. waiting for security. David Slotnik, a reporter for The Points Guy who took one of Tailwind’s flights last year, described it like feeling “like flying in private”.

Flights to the Washington waterfront are possible. The city has a long riverfront bounded by the Potomac River and its less famous sibling, the Anacostia River. There are at least three major active marinas in DC, including those in Georgetown and The platform – a new development two miles south of the White House on an entrance to the Potomac known as the Washington Canal. Further south on the Potomac are the marinas of Alexandria, on the Virginia side, and National port on the Maryland side.

But it’s the “subject to approval” bit that might get in the way. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains a 15 mile restricted area around Washington’s Reagan National Airport which was set up after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Every flight in the area, which includes the entire DC waterfront, must have a security waiver from US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which includes a check on each passenger, and a TSA check before the flight. Commercial flights to and from the domestic airport are exempt.

“At this time, we are still working on our DC expansion and are not ready to announce a route launch,” Peter Manice, Tailwind co-founder and Director of Scheduled Services, said in a statement. “We believe we have a path to DC-area service that will provide benefits similar to what our Boston-Manhattan passengers realize daily.”

This path would require approvals from a maze of local and federal authorities. The City of Washington controls the waters of the Anacostia and Potomac along its shores, although the US Coast Guard has some jurisdiction. The FAA oversees the airspace and security of the TSA.

A TSA spokesperson said only that the agency’s general aviation authorities had not reviewed a proposal from Tailwind.

FAA, Coast Guard and DC officials were not immediately available for comment.

If Tailwind pulls off the juggernaut of approval — something few see as possible in just four months — it would be the culmination of a decades-long effort to connect the New York and DC waterfronts by air. The former Downtown Airlines realized that dream with its own New York-Washington seaplane flights in 1974, according to Washington Post records. However, even without 9/11 security concerns, it took the airline more than five years to obtain all the necessary approvals for the flights. Downtown Airlines closed shortly after service began. More recently, a 1985 proposal for a seaplane landing strip in the Washington Channel off the Potomac died after waiting more than two years for regulatory approvals.

A federal official, who was not authorized to speak officially, said Tailwind’s proposal may come to fruition, but it would likely have to land further south on the Potomac — in other words, not in DC. same. They named National Harbor in Maryland, which is at least a 15-minute drive from the United States Capitol, as a possible terminal for the DC area.

But landing a 15-minute drive from the district would kill Tailwind’s competitive advantage: convenience.