Pitt Meadows seaplane school sells skills abroad

Island Coastal Aviation, based in Pitt Meadows, teaches pilots from to land on lakes and rivers

Tom Drybrough

They don’t use seaplanes in Denmark.

They make great beer, and good furniture.

And they export the odd professional hockey player.

But using seaplanes to connect the Danish archipelago for decades has eluded the country sandwiched between Germany and Sweden.

Rune Balle, of Samsoe Seaplanes, wants to change all that.

And Tom Drybrough of Island Coastal Aviation in Pitt Meadows is helping him by earning his seaplane wings and flying around the waters of south coastal B.C., then starting up a seaplane business in his home country.

“They haven’t been flying any seaplanes in Denmark since before the Second World War,” explains Klaus Olsen, who, along with Balle, spent a few weeks at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport and in Vancouver watching how companies such as Harbour Air and Seair Seaplanes take off and land on busy water ways.

Olsen says Danish authorities have been reluctant to allow seaplanes into their harbours.

“They are so careful. They didn’t want to do these things without everything being in perfect order with the politicians. All kinds of excuses,” explains Olsen.

That’s changing now, however, and Balle and his investors hope to start a seaplane business ferrying passengers from busy Copenhagen, just across from Sweden, to Aarhus, an historic city,  Denmark’s second largest, on the main Jutland peninsula. By car, it’s about a three-hour trip. “We can do the flight in about 45 minutes,” says Olsen.

Learning how to land on water requires a bit of a mind shift, however. Most have been trained to avoid the wet stuff so it takes an adjustment to deliberately land on water, he adds.

“Now we’re going for it.”

Drybrough, with Island Coastal Aviation, has been at the airport for two years, focusing on bush pilot training and mountain flying, giving real-life scenarios, in fog and wind, rain and snow, to pilots from around the world.

Landing on the Fraser River, Island Coastal’s back door runway, is an experience itself. It’s busy with cargo ships and tugs and recreational boats and debris.

“This is why it’s such a great place to train,” he says.

After training company founder Balle how to fly on floats, Drybrough expects more Samsoe pilots to come for the water training.

“They’re going to be a company that grows very rapidly.”

Island Coastal also is expanding its services to that of a full flight-training school so that it can train people with no flight experience up to the commercial pilot level.

Drybrough says they’re still providing seaplane instruction, but is also looking forward to the expansion and expects revenues to increase.

Drybrough also has been asked to go to Denmark next spring for Samsoe’s start-up phase, when approval is expected from a myriad of agencies.

Classic Aviation, Pacific Rim Aviation Academy, Cobalt Aviation and Montair Aviation are also located at the Pitt Meadows.

Olsen predicts the regional airport only will get busier.

“I bet you in the next 10 years, this airport grows exponentially.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rune Bolle, with Samsoe Seaplanes, completes his first solo landing in a Cessna 172 at the north end of the Pitt River.

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