Forget about the heliport, Boston. Seaplanes could soon be your fastest ticket to Manhattan.
Cape Air just secured a crucial "agreement letter" from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly seaplanes in the airspace over Boston's inner harbor. The federal body mainly believed that the planes would not interfere with the busy traffic at Logan airport, where Cape Air already has a large presence.
It's an important milestone. But it's just one of many for Cape Air's Managing Director Dan Wolf as he tries to complete his quest to get seaplan service from the ground in Boston. These planes are regulated as boats (by Coast Guard) and as aircraft (by FAA). Cape Air will also need the Boston officials' blessing for a docking area; A number of places along the South Boston Waterfront are under consideration. (East 23rd Street Naval Terminal is a given for New York side.)
However, the end is in sight. Wolf says he hopes to start offering three flights a day in each direction at one time next summer. The service will be seasonal, by plane for about nine months a year ̵
Of course, the real appeal is this: getting to Manhattan from the port within 70 minutes or so without difficulty navigating airports or getting to and from them.
Another company can be hot on Cape Air's tail. Alan Ram, of Tailwind Air, says he expects to secure his company's FAA letter to Boston seaplanes by the end of the year, aiming to start flights next summer. He expects the price to resemble Cape Airs. There is enough space in this market, he says, for both operators.
A number of corporate executives in Boston have long wanted a way to get to NYC in a hurry, without the usual airport heads. But the city has been without a general helipad for about two decades.
Someone had hoped that General Electric's arrival in the city two years ago would ask for movement on that front. But the idea kicked up in South Boston, and GE quickly supported.
Seaplanes, Wolf is quick to point out, has a much less effect than choppers. There would probably be fewer flights, for example, and no one at night. Wolf, a former state senator from Cape Cod, says his team has held more than 90 meetings in and around Boston to discuss the concept, taking into account social responsibility and getting feedback.
Wolf started down this runway at least five years ago, first meeting with former mayor Tom Menino to sound the idea. Now Wolf hopes to complete the voyage under Mayor Marty Walsh's clock. There is no rush for Cape Air, he says. Wolf is an educated pilot, as well as a CEO. In both roles he has learned the importance of a real start.
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto .