After lengthy negotiations with city authorities to construct licensed water aerodromes, Waterfront Air’s plans to introduce a seaplane service between the new Shenzhen International Airport Ferry Pier, Hong Kong’s old airport on the water, and Macau’s Cotai Strip, appear to be nearing completion.
According to a report by CNN, Waterfront Air hopes to launch the service next year from a large marine terminal in Shenzhen International Airport. The company is partially owned by Australian entrepreneur Peter de Kantzow, son of Cathay Pacific co-founder Sydney de Kantzow.
Waterfront Air reportedly chose to initiate the project in Shenzhen instead of in nearby Hong Kong, “because local authorities were willing to move more quickly than their counterparts in Hong Kong – a function of Shenzhen’s desire to boost its tourism and service sectors as growth in manufacturing has slowed.”
With the seaplane operation, passengers arriving at Shenzhen’s airport would be transported to the nearby Waterfront terminal, and would then fly on to Macau. Each seaplane trip will last about 15 minutes.
The company expects to build additional water aerodromes in Guangzhou and at the old Hong Kong airport in Kowloon. “Ultimately, de Kantzow envisions hundreds of regularly scheduled flights daily crisscrossing the populous Pearl River Delta, home to five cities with more than five million residents, and nearby ocean stretches of unspoiled natural beauty,” states the CNN report.
Waterfront Air’s website reveals that the company plans to transport over 300,000 visitors within the greater Pearl River Delta annually, using DHC-6 (the Twin Otter) seaplanes from de Havilland, Canada. This aircraft is purported to be “much quieter than a helicopter,” and avoiding undesirable noise seems to be on the top of Waterfront’s agenda.
“The DHC-6 aircraft is much quieter than a helicopter, and this service will run in the daytime only,” states the company’s website. “The seaplanes will not fly over land, and keep to a Civil Aviation Department – approved flight path over the water. Sound generated by seaplanes is similar in level to that generated by large speedboats, but unlike motorboats, sound from a seaplane is brief and transitory. There would be only ten minutes of operational sound a day. Furthermore, this service will fully comply with Hong Kong’s very strict sound restrictions regulating air operations, and also undergo a rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment.” Besides the motor’s smoothness, another attractive aspect of the trip is that “the view is amazing.”
Peter de Kantzow showed Waterfront Air’s future Shenzhen headquarters to CNN, and stated that the priority is to obtain a general aviation permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of China. This task could take up to 18 months. After that, approximately USD25 million would be needed to complete the initial phase in the Pearl River Delta. Another USD200 million would be required to fulfill Kantzow’s dream of “connecting ocean beaches, lakes, and waterways from Hainan in the south to Dalian in the north.” For him, the seaplanes’ potential return to the Pearl River skies signifies a “really great opportunity” for business.
It’s not the first time that seaplanes have whizzed passengers to Macau. Besides a military fleet introduced by the Portuguese during the 1920s, Cathay Pacific co-founders Sydney de Kantzow and Roy Farrell formed the Macau Air Transport Company (MATCO) in the late 1940s. Using Catalina flying boats, the company transported passengers and cargo between Hong Kong and Macau.
The Catalina flying boats were later phased out, disrupting operations until 1961. According to Waterfront Air, MATCO was then granted a three- year license to reintroduce a passenger service between the two regions. This time, they used an Italian six-passenger twin engine Piaggio P136.
The last reported seaplane operation involving Macau took place on December 1, 1962. Service was suspended due to bad landing conditions where silt had made the harbor shallower. PB
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