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Seaplane service from NYC to DC delayed, temporarily pivots to Dulles airport in security snag

Sept. 12, 2022
5 min read
Seaplane service from NYC to DC delayed, temporarily pivots to Dulles airport in security snag
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Tailwind Air will postpone the start of its seaplane service between New York City and Washington, D.C., the airline confirmed to TPG on Monday, canceling flights scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.

Word of the postponement comes as Tailwind changed its D.C.-area base from College Park Airport (CGS) in Prince Georges County, Maryland, to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

The postponement comes amid stringent security and logistical requirements surrounding D.C. airspace. Although Tailwind met the published security requirements and expected to be cleared to begin service, the airline learned about two weeks ago that there were some additional requirements it would be required to address, Peter Manice, Tailwind's director of scheduled services, told TPG by phone on Monday.

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"We were informed that there were additional considerations, and while we were technically compliant, there were some concerns from a number of agencies about our proposed flights into College Park," Manice said. "We're trying to expediently work through those concerns and come up with a framework that can make everybody more comfortable."

Tailwind's plans to operate the small seaplane service from New York to D.C., which the airline first teased in April, faced steep hurdles as first reported by Skift. The airspace around the nation's capital is tightly controlled and the airline would need approval through the DCA Access Standard Security Program, which requires charter and private aviation passengers to undergo TSA screening before flying into or out of Washington’s Reagan National Airport or before flying within the city or its immediate surroundings. Coupled with a 15-mile restricted zone around National Airport, a zone that includes the D.C. waterfront, it did not appear that Tailwind would be able to launch the service directly from the Potomac River

Tailwind's solution was to fly to the College Park airport, which is walking distance from the Green Line on Washington’s Metro system and about a 30-minute drive from the U.S. Capitol.

"Adding College Park, in the Washington, D.C., area to us is an exciting next chapter for us as we aim to bring the Northeast together again in a faster way," Peter Manice, Tailwind’s director of scheduled services told TPG in an interview last month.

"Flying into the restricted areas of D.C. does have some additional considerations, and we’ve taken the steps that we need to with the FAA and complied with all the TSA requirements around doing that," Manice added during the August interview. "We have been working to make sure that we meet, or exceed any expectation of those agencies."

When Tailwind learned of the additional "unpublished" restrictions at College Park, Manice said, the airline planned to pivot to Dulles for at least the short-term. Although there are not similar security restrictions at Dulles, the airline was not able to complete logistical planning in time for the planned D.C. launch, Manice said.

"Dulles has its own issues to work through on how to accommodate flights like ours, so we just need a little bit more time," he said. "The airport is working with us to accommodate us."

Manice said that Tailwind was considering operating to both Dulles and College Park once everything is finalized, but said that timing remained uncertain.

"We may be able to fly [to Dulles] in as little as two weeks," Manice said. "The timeline to resolve the issues at College Park is a little less defined."

"It looks like it's going to be a minimum of another five or six weeks or so" for the College Park flights to be cleared, he added.

Tailwind, a small New York-based shuttle and charter operation, was best known for running shuttle routes from Manhattan to summer hotspots on Long Island — East Hampton, Shelter Island and Montauk — as well as Bridgeport, Connecticut — using a fleet of eight-seat Cessna 208 Caravan turboprops with an amphibious configuration.

Last summer, the airline became better known for successfully launching scheduled seaplane service between Boston Harbor and Manhattan’s New York Skyport, on the East River at 23rd Street. It was the first seaplane to operate out of Boston since at least the 1950s, beating competitor Cape Air in a race to launch the scheduled flights.

The Boston service is seasonal from March through November, while the D.C. service is planned to continue into December, Manice said, meaning the airline still has time to launch the flights this season.

"We did our homework," Manice said, "but Washington is just a bit special in the way you have to approach it. And we're learning more every day."

"I feel terrible and regretful for all the people who were booked," Manice added.

Ethan Klapper contributed reporting.

Featured image by DAVID SLOTNICK/TPG
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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