State Sen. Bill Coley has landed on the water flying as a passenger in a seaplane, and says there's nothing quite like it.
"Flying in general is all about freedom, and the great thing about seaplanes is they can land anywhere," Coley said. "It's a wonderful sense of freedom."
Thanks to Coley and other pilots, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources plans to adopt rules making it easier for seaplanes to land on Buckeye Lake and several other lakes.
Seaplane landings also would be accommodated at Indian Lake in Logan County, Long Lake in Summit County and Salt Fork Reservoir in Guernsey County, and possibly other state lakes in the future, department Director James Zehringer said on Thursday.
"We want to make Ohio a travel and tourism destination," Coley said.
Coley, a Republican from Liberty Township in Butler County who is a lawyer and licensed pilot, has been pushing for opening up more state lakes to seaplanes since late last year when pilots met with him. They asked why Grand Lake St. Marys was the only state lake in Ohio that allows seaplanes to land without getting a permit from the department. Good question, Coley said he told them. He called Zehringer and asked him to look into expanding the number of state lakes where seaplanes could land without permits.
The legislature's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review gave the proposed rules a first hearing when they were introduced on Wednesday, department spokesman Matt Eiselstein said.
The proposed rules would allow seaplanes to land on Buckeye Lake and the other lakes without obtaining the permits that the department currently requires. The Ohio Department of Transportation already has approved designated landing areas on the deepest part of Buckeye Lake, and on the other lakes, Eiselstein said.
As part of eliminating permits, the department also will seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to designate Buckeye Lake and the three other lakes as seaplane landing bases — joining Grand Lake St. Marys in Auglaize County. This will allow pilots to come and go freely, Eiselstein said.
It's not known when the changes would take effect. It is anticipated that seaplanes could land on Buckeye Lake during the dam-construction project scheduled for completion in 2019, Eiselstein said. Department officials are allowing Buckeye Lake to refill to a level about a foot below the normal 6-foot-deep summer pool, but the lake remains shallow.
"My guess is they will probably be OK landing," Coley said. "Typically, they don't require as much water as a boat would."
Seaplanes behave as boats once they are on the water, and can taxi to a dock or the shoreline where pilots and passengers might stop at a restaurant, Coley said.
"It's hard to tell" how many seaplanes to expect, he said. "It's going to be fun to watch it evolve."
Department officials cannot estimate the number, either, but it is a market that shouldn't be ignored, Eiselstein said.
"We know that there's a significant number of them, and we want them to come here," he said.