NEWS

Busy Okanagan Lake getting dangerous for float planes

08/02/2012 04:18 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT
Some commercial pilots say Okanagan Lake is getting too dangerous for float planes on the weekends because of all the jet skis, boats and other waterborne traffic.

And unlike harbours in Vancouver and Victoria, Okanagan Lake has no designated float plane runway.

Legally, floatplanes are considered boats when taking off and landing on the water, and that means they compete with power boats, sailboats and jet skis for space, says Dave Stein, a commercial float plane operator with Air Hart Aviation in Kelowna.

"It can get quite a bit crazy down here. Us pilots have a little bit of a nickname for down here on the long weekend and we call it the 'gong show.' "

Stein says sometimes boaters even try to race his plane on the water.

"We're a little bit of an oddity in the area so we get a little bit of the drive-by sometimes, or everybody thinks they want to race the plane and sometimes they forget there's a little bit of a prop on the front of it," said Stein.

Others, he says, get a little too curious, and too close, for comfort.

"Common sense is sometimes lacking around here."

"Every once in a while you get a guy who comes around the front of the plane for a little bit of a look to see of who is in the cockpit and that gets a little bit leery when they are coming around the prop," said Stein.

He says jet skis are the most troublesome as they zip around the lake unpredictably.

Stein says Okanagan Lake will be so crowded over the long weekend that he won't take off or land his float plane after about noon each day – it's just not worth the risk.

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