Pilot floats idea for seaplane base at Toby’s Pond

A seaplane flies over downtown Beacon Falls during the Naugatuck River Festival May 4. The town is exploring the idea of establishing a seaplane base at Toby’s Pond. –FILE PHOTO

A seaplane flies over downtown Beacon Falls during the Naugatuck River Festival May 4. The town is exploring the idea of establishing a seaplane base at Toby’s Pond. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — Seaplane. Seaplane land. Seaplane take off. Or maybe not.

Nelson Tchakirides, a seaplane pilot from Seymour, came before the Board of Selectmen Monday night to propose using Toby’s Pond as a town-run seaplane base.

“The reason I propose this is that I’m a seaplane pilot and there’s a scarcity of seaplane bases on the east coast. Especially in the eastern corridor where people migrate from Canada and northern New England to Florida during the winter months,” Tchakirides said.

Tchakirides said there are only three places in the area that would be suitable for landing a seaplane — 2 Mile Island in East Hartford, the Yale Boat House on the Housatonic River in New Haven and Toby’s Pond.

Tchakirides said that the problem with 2 Mile Island is it is a tidal basin, which could corrode the aluminum of a float plane. The Yale Boat House is also not a preferable choice since there are high tension power lines near it, he said.

“So that leaves Toby’s Pond, and Toby’s Pond, as it is now, is ideal,” Tchakirides said.

During the Duck Day and Kayak Race on May 4 seaplane rides were run from Toby’s Pond.

Tchakirides said currently pilots looking to land a seaplane on water near Beacon Falls only have the option of the Connecticut River near the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam or in downtown New York City.

First Selectman Gerard Smith questioned how the base would benefit the town.

“How does this generate revenues?” Smith asked.

Tchakirides said the town could charge landing fees for any commercial flights.

“I think the economic capabilities are great because you would have more tendency for people with any kind of aeronautical interest or manufacturing capability that would be interested in the town because you have vacant spots in your industrial park right now,” Tchakirides said.

Tchakirides added the town could also set up a customs office for pilots coming from Canada.

Tchakirides felt it could also be a recreational use of Toby’s Pond.

“It wouldn’t impact people using it for boating, swimming, or canoeing,” Tchakirides said.

Tchakirides said the only other municipality he knows that has does anything similar to this is Tavares, Fla. According to Tchakirides building the seaplane base helped spur economic growth in the town.

In order to establish a seaplane base, the town would have to build a dock and tell the Federal Aviation Administration that they were intending to do so, according to Tchakirides.

Notifying the FAA would allow the agency to put the base would on the air charts and reconfigure the control zone for Oxford Airport, Tchakirides said.

Toby’s Pond in Beacon Falls. –FILE PHOTO

Toby’s Pond in Beacon Falls. –FILE PHOTO

The base would be just for planes to touch down and pilots to get some sleep, Tchakirides said. The base would only operate during daytime hours.

The idea was met with skepticism from Toby’s Pond Steward Rich Minnick. He said the pond is in a flood plain, so there could be no permanent structure, such as a dock Tchakirides proposed the town build there.

Minnick was also concerned about the amount of work that would need to go into creating the base and who would be doing that work.

“Where are we going to get the money to take care of it? Right now it’s being maintained by volunteers and volunteers’ money,” Minnick said. “We need money brought into the town. I welcome your ideas, but the homework needs to be done.”

Minnick pointed out that, if the town does decide to allow seaplanes to land there, it would also have to change the other restrictions it has placed on the pond.

“We do not allow any powerboats down there. The Board of Selectmen would have to change their regulations to allow people with fuel. We do not allow [radio control] boaters with gasoline power to go down there. You’d need to change that too, it’s only fair,” Minnick said.

Smith said the base is an option that the town will consider and he would like to speak with the officials in Tavares, Fla. to get an idea of the pros and cons.

“It’s interesting and it’s definitely something that bears looking into,” Smith said.

The issue will be put back on the agenda for next month’s meeting.

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