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Thu, Apr 01, 2010

US Air Announces Seaplane Service To Downtown Manhattan

Dornier Amphibian To Fly DC-NY Route

ANN April 1st Special Edition: U.S. Airways says it will be the first major airline in more than 65 years to offer amphibious seaplane service to Manhattan, the company announced in a news conference Thursday. The first route will link New York City with Washington, D.C. It will utilize the Hudson River near the West 30th Street heliport and the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Service is expected to begin next year on January 15.

The company plans to use the Dornier Seaplane Company's new Seastar CD2 amphibious flying boat. The Seastar is a twin engine, 12 passenger, amphibious seaplane capable of landing on runways or in 2 ½ foot seas. It flies at 180 knots. Dornier is an American company, owned by the heirs of the original German company that began building flying boats in 1915.

In making the announcement, U.S. Airways noted the heritage of Pan Am, which was headquartered in New York City and operated a fleet of flying boats around the world in the pre-World War II era. "Pan Am demonstrated that the flying public loves floatplanes," said company President Scott Kirby. "Now that Dornier is making seaplanes practical again, we intend to give the public the opportunity to fly in them."

Dornier Seaplane

The service is expected to be popular among Wall Street bankers, who often need to travel quickly to Washington, according to a company spokesperson. Since the seaplane service is "a regularly scheduled flight," bankers can avoid the political sensitivities associated with flying to Washington in a private jet. Passengers would also save time, since they can leave directly from Manhattan instead of traveling to an airport outside the city.

U.S. Airways plans to operate the service using a separate company, essentially operating as a regional airline. This will allow the company to minimize costs, including paying employees lower wages. The spokesperson said it plans to initially recruit experienced bush pilots "used to enduring hardship" in Alaska. He added the pilots could expect to earn more, since New York State has a higher minimum wage than Alaska.

Kirby concluded the press conference by saying "We think this is a way to increase the loyalty of our customer base while providing them the kind of service that we found develops a deep emotional commitment between passengers and pilots." Asked whether "Miracle of the Hudson" pilot Chesley Sullenberger had inspired the new service, Kirby smiled and said, "I never made that connection."


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