Regional seaplane bases offer a unique aviation experience

Regional Aviation Baseline Study

With such a long maritime and aerospace history, it’s no surprise that the central Puget Sound region is home to six seaplane bases.

A seaplane base is a type of airport located in a body of water where seaplanes and other amphibious aircraft can take off and land. Water runways can be found on American Lake in Lakewood, Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Liberty Bay in Poulsbo. Activities vary greatly among seaplane bases.

The region’s two largest seaplane bases, located on Lake Union and Lake Washington in Kenmore, are operated by Kenmore Air. In 2017, these two locations supported over 85,000 aircraft operations per year. Kenmore Air, which offers both transport and recreation services, has been operating in the region since 1946 and currently has a fleet of 29 air and seaplanes. They have daily scheduled and charter service available to western Washington and southwestern British Columbia. "Flightseeing" tours are also operated by the airline for visitors to experience Seattle from the air.

The smallest of the region’s seaplane bases by activity is American Lake, located 7 miles south of Tacoma. This airport, owned by the City of Lakewood, has much fewer operations—only 50 in 2017, but the base plays an important role as a way to transport supplies to nearby communities in case of a major incident or emergency.

Regardless of size, seaplane bases play an important role in the region’s airport network by creating connections between air, water, and land.

PSRC is conducting a Regional Aviation Baseline Study to better understand the region’s aviation system and options for meeting growing demand. Results from the study will form the technical foundation for future decisions by regional and state leaders.  A final report is due out in fall 2020.