Tailwind Air seaplanes arrive in Washington. But they will land on… earth.
When entering the Washington market, Ram said, it made sense to use an airport rather than set up a water landing zone. The seaplane is the latest mode of transport to make its debut in a traffic jammed region in constant search of faster means of transport.
“We decided that the best approach was to leverage existing off-the-shelf infrastructure,” Ram said.
Tailwind expects to compete with airlines and Amtrak’s Acela service for business travelers. The company’s fares start at $395 one-way, rising to $795 for last-minute bookings, while offering faster door-to-door travel times than jets or trains.
The new travel option comes as major airlines and start-ups explore the potential of what they have dubbed “flying taxis”, usually small electric planes that promise short, traffic-free flights. While these operations would use recent technology, Tailwind says it offers a similar service using a model that dates back to the early days of flight.
NY to DC by seaplane? The company looks at the region’s tightly controlled airspace.
Tailwind operates between New York and Boston, as well as other parts of New England. In New York, it flies from Manhattan’s Skyport Marina at the end of East 23rd Street, skipping a trip to New Jersey or Queens to catch a plane while soaring above the city‘s skyline.
The tiny College Park airport, wedged between a lake and an industrial area more than eight miles from downtown Washington, doesn’t have the same glamor but has its own history. The airport claims to be the oldest in the world still in operation and was established in 1909 when Wilbur Wright came to Washington to train the first military pilots. An adjacent museum showcases the airport’s place in aviation history.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which operates the airport, did not respond to a request for comment on the new flights. A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration said it had no information to share about the planned service. The Federal Aviation Administration did not respond to questions about the service.
Tailwind conducted a test flight to and from College Park earlier this month, but the type of scheduled service it will offer when service launches on September 13 is new to the facility. The carrier said it plans to launch limited operations of around two flights a day using eight-passenger Cessna Caravans. The approach, Ram said, is “crawl, walk, run.”
Passengers can park for free outside the airport building and are not subject to X-ray screening, check-in being permitted 10 minutes before departure.
In the Washington area, National Harbor on the Prince George’s County waterfront seemed to some aviation enthusiasts like a possible water landing spot, but it falls under restricted airspace. Airspace restrictions over the region extend approximately 15 nautical miles from Reagan National Airport.
Pilots operating to and from the airport are required to go through a screening procedure with the TSA, and each flight must follow special procedures while in the air. FAA rules include methods of access to three small airports in Maryland, in addition to major flights to National, and it was these existing procedures that made College Park attractive to Tailwind.
Ram, who lives in Falls Church, said it didn’t make sense that a trip from Washington to New York could take as long as a flight to Florida. Tailwind says he can complete the flight in around 90 minutes.
“We came up with the idea of trying to shorten the main airports and sources of friction in travel between the city centers of these major cities,” he said.
An incident earlier this year underscored just how tight security is in the skies over Washington. Miscommunication between the FAA and security officials at the United States Capitol prompted an evacuation when a military plane performing a parachute flight during a national championship game was mistakenly perceived as a threatens.