Ray Hawkins was just a junior in high school when he piloted his first flight: a BC-12D Taylorcraft, single-engine monoplane over a grassy Florida field. Fast-forward 46 years — after a twenty-year stint in the United States Air Force and a second career with the Federal Aviation Administration — and Hawkins, who now lives in Aurora, still has a passion for aviation. “When you’re sitting in the cockpit of the aircraft, and you’re above all of the fray of the ground, it’s somewhat liberating,” he says. “You get a feeling of freedom.”
Over the course of over four decades, Hawkins has renewed his flight certification dozens of times. Up for renewal again in 2011, Hawkins elected to add a seaplane rating to his license. “I started looking around and I found out the closest place they had any kind of training at all was Lake Havasu City, Arizona,” he remembers.
As his search continued, he found hundreds of licensed seaplane pilots with virtually no use for their certifications in this state, and numerous seaplanes sitting idle in Colorado due to a ban on the specialized aircraft in state-controlled waterways. “I found out even if I got the rating, I couldn’t use it anywhere in the state,” he says.
Colorado is the only state in the country with such a ban, which was instituted years ago over concerns that lakes and rivers were already overcrowded, and that state waters needed to be protected from invasive species.
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