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Seaplane docked on lake

Mitigating the Risks

AIS-Seaplane Self-inspection Protocols and Pilot Outreach

The information on this website under the Phase 1 menu tab incorporates information compiled from the first phase of a four-phase project to produce a risk analysis to assess the potential to spread aquatic invasive species via seaplanes. At the conclusion of the project, recommendations will be made to enhance U.S. aquatic invasive species-seaplane prevention efforts. The DRAFT material posted in the Phase I section of the website represents a compilation of material from numerous sources, some of which may ultimately inform the risk analysis. The purpose of compiling this information was to better understand the seaplane pathway and identify key data gaps and information needed to inform the risk analysis. No analysis of this information has been conducted to date as content is refined and additional sources and content are added.

Invasive species can be moved among waterbodies when a seaplane comes in contact with aquatic invasive plants, such as Elodea spp., or other AIS in the water, such as dreissenid mussels. Training manuals, online materials, checklists, and verbal information is provided to pilots seeking their seaplane credentials. These training materials and instructions guide pilots to identify the weather and water conditions that may influence the landing and take-off of a seaplane. Pilots conduct pre-flight inspection of seaplanes to ensure the safe operation and maintenance of the plane. Close examination of Federal Aviation Administration’s Seaplane, Skiplane and Float/Ski Equipped Helicopter Operations Handbook (FAA 2004) does not explicitly mention aquatic invasive species, however, there is mention of debris in the case of identifying safe landing conditions and checking for accumulated water within seaplane floats as an important step in maintenance.  

There are numerous resources available to seaplane pilots to learn about preventative actions to avoid invasive species. The following are examples, and are not intended to be comprehensive: 

Numerous seaplane pilot associations share links to information about AIS and seaplanes:

  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 

  • Columbia Seaplane Pilots Association 

  • Montana Seaplane Pilots Association 

  • The Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA) dedicates a portion of their website to aquatic invasive species. “Stopping the Spread” addresses the potential for bilge water to be contaminated and recommends four general rules seaplane pilots can follow to minimize the risk of transporting invasive species. The SPA also provides audio podcasts to members. The Seaplane Foundation dedicates a page of its website to Invasive Species Education, promoting Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ and illustrating examples of seaplane decontamination.

  • The Pacific Northwest training video and certification is maintained by the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association. This resource provides a short video on inspection and cleaning of seaplanes, a test, and a certificate. The certification is not required for seaplane pilot operation, but the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho endorse its completion. Numerous seaplane associations and organizations reference the video, information, and protocols promoted by the State of Washington.

  • British Columbia published, “Best Management Practices: Seaplane Operations and Invasive Species: A Pocket Guide for Commercial and Recreational Seaplane Operators,” in 2023.  The 51-page publication, produced collaboratively with the BC Floatplane Association, the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association and numerous members from the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia Seaplane Advisory Committee, includes information about invasive species, best management practices for floatplane and seaplane operators, a best practices checklist (before and after flying as well as storage and mooring), and information about reporting invasive species and contacting regional invasive species organizations.

  • Numerous federal agencies promote best management practices and guidelines to mitigate risk of AIS and seaplanes:

  • Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Recommendations for Seaplane Inspection and Decontamination for Aquatic Nuisance Species, published in August of 2010, documents actions seaplane pilots can take to mitigate AIS. PSMFC’s website, Western Aquatic Invasive Species Resource Center, describes the seaplane pathway and procedures seaplane pilots can follow to minimize transport of AIS.

  • Numerous state agencies share information about AIS and seaplanes. Examples include:

  • Several municipalities and counties share protocols and training for seaplane pilots:

    • Whatcom County, Washington requires seaplane pilots to enter into a cooperative agreement with the City of Bellingham stating the pilot will follow required procedures. They also ask that pilots voluntarily submit information for each landing on Lake Whatcom or Lake Samish, including the date of landing, origin of the flight, and other lakes visited on their trip. Whatcom County provides pilots with an AIS-Seaplane Guide and Log Book.

    • In 1988, the Great Lakes Panel of the National Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF) created voluntary guidelines for seaplanes, which were subsequently adopted by the ANSTF as national guidelines in 1999 (Zook and Phillips 2015). In 2011, the ANSTF revised those guidelines for seaplanes and other recreational activity vectors (ANSTF 2013).  The intent of the guidelines is to provide consistent, practical, and effective information to prevent the spread of AIS, consider pathways and AIS life histories, and promote voluntary actions (ANSTF 2013). Since the development of these guidelines, numerous jurisdictions have implemented mandatory inspection protocols for seaplanes as well as ordinances and regulations that prohibit the landing of any seaplane contaminated with AIS, e.g., Lake Tahoe region (Wittman and Chandra 2015).

The Pacific Northwest training video and certification has been one of the most well-accepted and supported set of seaplane self-inspection protocols developed to date. The 2023 publication produced in British Columbia mirrors many of the Washington protocols. The following is a compilation of these two protocols, which represents the most recent and well accepted protocols and best management practices by both seaplane pilots and AIS experts.

Clean, Drain, Dry seaplane checklist
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