Sunday, July 21, 2024

Goodbye Chelan Seaplane

At least for now


CHELAN - For the first time in 60 years, Chelan Seaplanes will not be operating in Lake Chelan. 

The formal decision came from owner Shane Carlson late in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 14, in a press release.  

“Regretfully, Chelan Seaplanes is formally announcing that we will not be operating seaplane service on Lake Chelan for the 2017 season. All of the support and kind words of encouragement were not enough to bring things together to operate service in 2017,” Carlson wrote in the release. “We have tried our best and exhausted all options, including options that didn’t require permitting such as temporary facility, including a floating concept. The City’s Shoreline Master Plan does not allow for any temporary type of business concept which we were proposing to get us into operation for 2017. As well, many other permitting hurdles with other State and Federal Agencies would have to be completed in a very short period of time. The lawsuit filed by the Chelan Basin Conservancy (CBC) against the Fingers was another important part of our decision.” 

However, Carlson did leave returning to Lake Chelan on the table. Of course, that would only happen if the situation was right. 

“I assured Mator Cooney and Hollingsworth that I am committed to being here, I just can’t afford to buy a piece of property and take a gamble on a two year lease,” Carlson said in reference to a two year lease the Goodfellow brothers offered him. “I would entertain that, I mean they were offering it at a reasonable enough rate, but I could just barely afford it and it still wouldn’t solve the long term problem.” 

Aside from the Two Fingers location, there are limited locations Carlson believes he can successfully operate from. 

“Nothing out there is suitable, that is where the city and the Port need to provide infrastructure for the air service to be there,” Carlson stated. “The city didn’t do anything accept kind words on and a pat on the back, nothing was done to help facilitate it.” 

In a response to the initial press release, Mayor Mike Cooney said, “I applaud Shane for working and turning over rocks, we met with him several times, we put on a public meeting and I personally reached out to property owners to see if it could fit, but the bottom line is that we understand the importance of the seaplane, that has to be clearly stated, it is an icon. It is just frustrating it is not happening. Our Planning Director, (Craig Gildroy) worked hard and we spent a fair amount of time as a city on the issue. It is frustrating it couldn’t get done, but it is not from a lack of effort. The door is still open though if something can get done.” 

In the meantime, Carlson says he plans to fly the Seaplane over to their other business location in Friday Harbor. 

“The plane will be re-purposed and busy doing something else,” Carlson affirmed. “I would certainly like and prefer to have it over in Chelan and I want to be there.” 


Zach Johnson can be reached at or (509) 682-2213


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