Seaplane Flying In The Great Lakes Region

by Steve Smith
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2018 issue

At the intersection of the 45 North latitude line and the 85 West longitude line is an area that is perfectly suited for seaplane flying. The area is surrounded by the pristine clear waters of the Great Lakes and several other inland lakes carved into the earth and filled with fresh water during the last ice age.

These lakes offer runways and locations that are only accessible by seaplane. Flying from lake to lake is an experience that is far different than the traditional airport experience. Missing are the designated taxiways, specified runway headings, control towers, and the usual other airplane traffic. Although traffic is far from absent, it is just in the form of boat traffic often maneuvering to be closer to a majestic seaplane.

45 North Aviation is an air charter and air tour company based at Cherry Capital Airport (KTVC) in Traverse City, Michigan. In addition to the seaplanes used for tours and charter, 45 North Aviation has a Citation Encore, King Air 200, TBM 850, Robinson R44, Astar 350, de Havilland Beaver, Cessna 185, and an L39 Albatross.

The pilots at 45 North Aviation have to have a diverse flight bag. They are a group that uses the seaplane as their primary form of transportation, as much as possible during the summer months.

The lakes in the area provide some major advantages to road travel. A place that you can see across the water can be an hour or longer car drive away. An amphibious seaplane can cut travel times to mere minutes. I often travel from home to the airport in my seaplane in order to fly a charter, cutting the commute from 30 minutes to 10 minutes.

Some of our favorite seaplane destinations in Michigan include Torch Lake; Power Island – West Bay, Traverse City; Little Bay De Noc; Long Lake; Mackinac Island; Lake Charlevoix; and Les Cheneaux Islands.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Steven Smith lives in Traverse City, Michigan, where he is a charter pilot for 45 North Aviation. He holds a Commercial Seaplane Pilot Certificate and owns an amphibious M-7-260C on Wipline 3000A floats. 45 North Aviation provides airplane and helicopter charter; air tours; aircraft maintenance, storage and sales service; flight training including seaplane instruction; aircraft management; import and export services; banner towing; and utility patrols.

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