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Northwest exploring by seaplane ... cities, waterways, wild high country.

Northwest exploring by seaplane . . . cities, waterways, wild high country

The single-engine floatplane coughs to lifeas it heads down the lake. The pilot tests ailerons and rudder, turns into the wind, and begins taxiing across the choppy water. Swiftly the plane gathers speed, then with a roar sweeps toward the heavens.

Stacked up against a Boeing 747 or theConcorde, the average seaplane may seem sorrily passe. But these nimble craft can whisk you from Seattle or Vancouver to where big planes never go, where even small wheeled aircraft can't land. They can open a new world of recreation, from sightseeing tours to a sailboat rendezvous in the San Juan Islands or a wilderness fishing expedition.

Seaplanes come into their own from Seattlenorth, along the mountain-guarded coasts and lake-studded back country of British Columbia, and all over Alaska.

They have their limitations: bulbousfloats add weight and create drag, reducing speed by about a third compared to similar wheeled craft (maximum speed is about 125 to 130 mph). Cost is based on air time, so longer trips can get expensive.

What about safety? The FAA regularlyinspects planes and certifies pilots, who have to acquire another rating beyond the normal commercial license.

Here's a summary of regular services inthe Puget Sound area and out of Vancouver; most operators can also arrange custom flights. Check ahead on baggage and carry-on limitations; 20 to 25 pounds per person is about average. Shorter flights are generally easy to get on short notice; fishing trips require more forethought.

From Seattle: tour the city, fly to Victoria or a B.C. fishinglodge

Three air harbor locations are grouped atthe south end of Seattle's Lake Union, just north of the city center; another is in Kenmore, 20 minutes from downtown.

Chrysler Air, 1325 Fairview Ave. E.,Seattle 98102; (206) 329-9638. Twenty-minute city tours in five-passenger Cessna 206s cost $22.50 per person; charters can be arranged.

Kenmore Air, 1327 Fairview Ave. E.,Seattle 98102; 322-1800 and 486-1257. Scheduled flights to Friday Harbor in the San Juans in seven-passenger Beavers cost $40 one way ($80 round trip); to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, $50 and $80. One-stop service to Vancouver costs $70 and $130. Ten daily flights (some feature jet props) to Victoria are $50 and $100. Flightseeing can be arranged.

Kenmore Air Harbor, Box 64, Kenmore98028; 486-1257. At the north end of Lake Washington off State 522, this large operator (18 planes) specializes in fishing trips to B.C. Rates range from $448 for an overnight trip (including 8 hours of salmon fishing, lodging, all meals, and tackle) to $1,717 for a five-night package. Twenty-minute flightseeing tours cost $50 in one- to three-passenger planes, $70 for up to six. Also runs summer flights to 15 B.C. destinations for $99 to $165 one way.

Lake Union Air Service, 1100 WestlakeAve. N., Seattle 98109; 284-0300. Five-passenger Cessnas and seven-passenger Beavers offer daily scheduled service to the San Juans for $45 ($85 round trip); also nonstop to Victoria ($48 and $90). Half-hour Seattle tours cost $25 a person (minimum of two). Ask about planned regular service to B.C. fishing spots.

From Vancouver: city tours, scenic flights, fishing trips, Victoria outings

Two major operators do business neardowntown Vancouver, side by side in Coal Harbour, foot of Cardero Street on Burrard Inlet. Prices are in U.S. funds.

Air B.C., 4740 Agar Dr., Richmond V7B1A6; (604) 278-3800. Offers 13 daily flights to Victoria on 18-passenger Twin Otters ($52 one way, $104 round trip). A one-day Victoria outing includes air fare and rental car for $70 per person (minimum four). Salmon charters available.

Harbour Air, 4760 Inglis Dr., RichmondV7B 1W4; 688-1277. Three- to 18-passenger planes offer eight different tours: half-hour flightseeing, $38; 1-hour Sunshine Coast trip, $78; 1 1/2-hour Garibaldi Lake tour, $75; 2 1/2-hour Butchart Gardens tour, $104; 3-hour visit to Princess Louisa Inlet, $145 including lunch; 5-hour seaplane-sailing trip, $93 with lunch; one-day salmon-fishing trip, $279 with lunch; 5-hour tour to Victoria and Butchart Gardens, $134 without lunch.

Photo: Beneath soaring seaplane, Seattle scenereaches from cross-Sound ferries past Smith Tower to distant Cascades

Photo: Crags and glaciers in British Columbia's Coast Range stretch to the horizon
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Date:Jun 1, 1987
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