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Seaplanes touch down for Apr. 12 weekend

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / March 26, 2014
Hoping to spark interest in seaplanes on Buggs Island Lake, members of the Virginia Seaplane Pilots Association (VSPA) will host a Seaplane Splash-down on Saturday, April 12 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the town dock and beach in front of the Lake Motel in Clarksville.

This splash-down, slated the same day as the Clarksville Wine Festival, will take place amid a relaxed atmosphere where visitors can talk to the pilots, view the planes up close and, weather permitting, watch seaplanes taking off and landing, said VSPA member and Lake Gaston resident Steve Harris.

The event is free and open to the public.

The Virginia Seaplane Pilots Association is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to identify lakes in and around Virginia compatible with seaplane landings. Seaplane pilots also hope to expand the number of locations where these planes can land on Buggs Island Lake, explained Harris.

Right now, the Corps of Engineers has designated three sites on the lake as seaplane landing zones.

Harris said this event would not have been possible without the work of Mary Willis, manager of the Lake Motel in Clarksville, and the support of the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce. Because of the reception that VSPA has received already from Willis and the Chamber, he envisions the Clarksville splash-down becoming an annual event, which will attract not just pilots but seaplane enthusiasts of all stripes.

Virginia is the first state to establish its own seaplane pilots association, according to the Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA).

The goal of the Virginia Seaplane Pilots Association is to educate, promote and preserve seaplane operations throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. At the same time, Harris hopes the group will help to develop the next generation of pilots for aircraft of all sorts: “The pilot population in the United States has dropped drastically,” said Harris. “I believe one way we can promote flying to kids is by first showing them how fun it can be to fly a seaplane.”

In October, a similar fly-in at the Lake Gaston Resort in Brunswick County attracted nearly 1,000 visitors, as well as pilots and aviation dignitaries, among them Randy Burdette, director of the Virginia Department of Aviation (DOAV) and Harris, DOAV Director of Flight Operations and Safety. Harris said 2013 was the second year for the Lake Gaston splash down, and he adds that in a very short time, the Clarksville splash down can be just as popular.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Virginia Seaplane Pilots Association, contact president Bill Fosdick at 540-872-6744.

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