Is there anywhere in the world that still offers scheduled air carrier service using flying boat / seaplane types of aircraft - something akin to a proper airliner? Or are they all limited to charters and shuttle-type flights on de Havilland Otters and the like?
3$\begingroup$ What exactly would you consider a "proper airliner"? A Twin Otter can certainly be an airliner ("Currently, 38% are operated as regional airliners", Wikipedia). Trans Maldivian Airways for example only operates Twin Otters. $\endgroup$– BianfableJul 9, 2020 at 7:21
$\begingroup$ Maybe you should be asking if there are any operable flying boats in operation before asking about scheduled services. $\endgroup$– GdDJul 9, 2020 at 7:59
1$\begingroup$ I know for a fact that there are flying boats still operable. For example Grumman HU-16 was in use by the U.S. Coast Guard until the mid-80s and in the Greek Navy until the mid-90s. Many of these aircraft are still in private use today. $\endgroup$– Aaron HolmesJul 9, 2020 at 12:49
1$\begingroup$ I understand that the term "airliner" can be vague. Perhaps a good follow up question would be: If there are airlines still operating on the water, what are some of the most significant in terms of passenger carrying capacity and/or distance of routes? $\endgroup$– Aaron HolmesJul 9, 2020 at 13:27
$\begingroup$ Hey, uh, maybe it's kinda late, but could you clarify whether you want to know specifically about flying boat or about all seaplanes in general? Your title says "flying boat", but in your question, you refer to using flying boat / seaplane Moreover, you go on to ask are they (seaplane operations) all limited to charter or shuttle-type flights on De Havilland Otters which could give the impression either that the Otter is a flying boat (it's not) or that your question is not limited to flying boats (but your title is?). $\endgroup$– AbdullahJul 10, 2020 at 10:10
As far as I know, there is no actual flying boat in use at an airline. The flying boats that are still in commercial operation are typically used for fighting forest fires or maritime patrol. This may change in the near future since there are currently at least two flying boats in development that might be used by airlines:
Dornier Seastar CD2: This is a newer model of the previous Seastar, which had its first flight earlier this year:
Dornier Seawings flew its new-generation Seastar amphibian for the first time on 28 March from its base in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
Dornier says the aircraft will be offered in various configurations including cargo, passenger, special missions and VIP transport.
(flightglobal.com, emphasis mine)
AVIC AG600: This is new aircraft developed in China and one of the biggest flying boats ever. It had its first flight in 2017 and according to Wikipedia is expected to be delivered by 2022, possibly also in a passenger variant:
Further variants may be developed for maritime surveillance, resource detection, passenger and cargo transport.
If you are not just interested in pure flying boats, but also floatplanes, then there are many airlines world wide that operate these on regularly scheduled flights. One of the biggest is Trans Maldivian Airways operating various variants of the DHC-6 Twin Otter. They operate 55 seaplanes, which according to Wikipedia makes them the biggest seaplane airline:
TMA currently operates the world's largest seaplane fleet.
They offer flights to over 80 destinations:
Trans Maldivian Airways currently offers transfer services to more than 80 Maldives resorts, flying over 1 million passengers per year to their holiday hideaways.
This is their main terminal at Velena International Airport:
(image source: Wikimedia)
1$\begingroup$ Having flown TMA 3 times, I can say they're my favourite. Not the most comfortable, not the most luxurious but it means youre about to spend a week or 2 in pure luxury! $\endgroup$– Jamiec ♦Jul 9, 2020 at 15:28
1$\begingroup$ The AVIC AG600 Wikipedia article makes it sound as though the anticipated passengers may be troops on their way to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, rather than fare-paying members of the public. That's pure speculation of course. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:22
1$\begingroup$ @rclocher3 Yes, I think at the moment it is primarily developed for the military. That's why I quoted "Further variants may be developed". If there is a market, they may use it for normal passengers as well, but maybe not... $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:29
2$\begingroup$ I like the Dornier registration "D-ICKS" (D-X) as a nod to the Dornier DO-X. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 11:14
1$\begingroup$ @BrianDrummond haha, I hadn't noticed. What a wonderful registration :D $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 11:17
Last time I was there (fifteen or so years ago) there was a thriving commercial air passenger operation, including at least a couple scheduled flights (weekly, I believe, not daily), at the north end of Lake Washington (near Seattle), officially in either Bothell or Woodinville, Washington state (comments reminded me it's Kenmore Air, in Kenmore, WA). There were no flying boats in service there, but there were Beavers and Otters on floats.
Beyond that, there are a number of tiny (one or two aircraft) airlines operating scheduled feeder service in Alaska and northern Canada that operate on floats, because lakes and rivers are much more common in the wilder parts of the sub-Arctic and Arctic than even grass or gravel airstrips. As long as there's water to land on at both ends, such aircraft are good to go (and some have retractable gear, so they can land on concrete if necessary) -- and if you're starting from a village equidistant from Fairbanks and Nome, these are likely to be your only choices for local service. The bulk of their revenue is likely from hunting and fishing charters, like any bush operation -- but many of them operate weekly or twice-weekly scheduled flights to a hub terminal.
$\begingroup$ There is an extensive scheduled service float network operating around the southern BC coast; Harbour Air, Sea Air, Vancouver Island Air, West Coast Air and others.They run VFR-only sched services, meaning scheduled trips that make the rounds whether there is anybody on board or not. There is a steady scheduled seaplane commuter flow between Vancouver harbour and Victoria (the capital) and Nanaimo on Van Island.There is so much traffic that Vancouver Harbour is the only water aerodrome I know of that is not part of a land airport, and has a PCZ with a Tower (atop a waterfront office building). $\endgroup$– John KJul 9, 2020 at 14:32
2$\begingroup$ You are thinking of Kenmore Air, which is in Kenmore. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 15:09
1$\begingroup$ You beat me too it! 3 miles from my house... They also fly wheeled Caravans out of BFI to the San Juan Islands. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 15:56
$\begingroup$ @AzorAhai--hehim I think you're correct. I used to drive past there occasionally, late in the day, when I was a Seattle cab driver. "City" borders are a little nebulous in that part of King/Snohomish counties. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 16:07
1$\begingroup$ Haha, not to sound rude, but I am correct, I'm from Bothell. Neither Bothell nor Woodinville actually has any waterfront. But I can see why it would be confusing, they do just run into each other. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 16:16
There is at least one jet flying boat, the Beriev B-200, in production.
The Wikipedia article gives it a capacity of 72 passengers. I don't know how many (if any) are employed in an airliner role, though this variant has a "pressurised and air conditioned cabin allowing transportation of up to 72 passengers.
The passenger variant is the BE-210 shown here at beriev.com
Most seem to be employed as water carriers in a firefighting role; it was designed to skim the surface and scoop up water at close to takeoff speed.
Four or five years ago or so, Pacific Coastal Airlines spun off its seaplane division as Wilderness Seaplanes, which flies scheduled service in a fleet of four Grumman Gooses in British Columbia.
$\begingroup$ Grumman Geese?? $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 11:09
$\begingroup$ I wish you'd kept the spelling. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 12:50
Not "air carrier service", but Viking Air acquired from Bombardier the type certificates and continues to produce the CL-215, CL-215T, CL-415 and CL-415EAF as an aerial firefighter, an amphibious aircraft.
Again, not "air carrier service" but a true flying boat, Coulson Flying Tankers effectively grounded the last Martin Mars water-bomber in 2018. They are fondly missed.
The following relates to "Float planes", rather than "flying boats or seaplanes" ...
Viking Air also hold the type certificate for the legendary De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver DHC-3 Otter and DHC-6 Twin Otter. A refreshed, next-gen specification Twin Otter - series 400 is now back in Production.
From their website,
With a fleet of 57 de Havilland Twin Otters, Trans Maldivian Airways operates the largest seaplane operation in the world.
TMA is the airline referenced in @Bianfable 's answer.
NORDIC Seaplanes flies daily between the two largest Danish cities.
1$\begingroup$ With flying boats or floats? $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:11
5$\begingroup$ It appears they fly just one aircraft, and that is a Twin Otter floatplane (!=flying boat) $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:16
$\begingroup$ The title just asks about flying boats, but the question body also includes "seaplane." A Twin Otter isn't a flying boat, but it is a seaplane. $\endgroup$– reirabJul 10, 2020 at 7:13
5$\begingroup$ This post is an answer, albeit not a good one. The tool to deal with this is voting, not deletion. $\endgroup$– boglJul 10, 2020 at 8:39
1$\begingroup$ Now it turns out that my flag seems to be unnecessary, as the question turned out to include floatplanes. $\endgroup$ Jul 14, 2020 at 15:47