It was roughly five years ago when Mike Barron, manager of Hannibal Regional Airport, proposed putting a plane on floats on the city’s riverfront. While it hasn’t happened, Barron hasn’t forgotten or given up.
“It’s very possible. We actually have some contacts with sea plane pilots and the people I’ve run it past say they thought it would be a small, but successful endeavor,” he said.
The idea was a point of discussion at the recent meeting of the Airport Advisory Board.
City Engineer Mark Rees, noting the City Council’s keen interest in attracting new business opportunities to the community, felt the group would be willing to listen to a proposal.
Five years ago, Barron suggested that such a plane would not just be for tourist and sightseeing tours, but could also offer float-plane ratings for pilots.
“That will draw people from all over the country. There’s only a certain number of places that offer that,” he said at the time.
Earlier this month Barron indicated he already has a letter of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to use a sea plane to provide scenic rides.
Barron believes that Hannibal would be a point of destination for pilots with sea planes, provided they had a place where they could tie off their planes once they got here.
A big question is where would the plane be based? According to Barron, he needs a spot “without a whole lot of current traffic.”
Another important consideration for Barron is finding a site that won’t cost an arm and leg.
“We need a cheap spot that nobody else is wanting to use that could be fixed up and made available without a whole lot of economic outlay,” he said. “It’s not a money-producing proposition; it’s more of a novelty for the community.”
One possibility is south of Bear Creek.
“We have looked at that area. It’s actually quite suitable in that the land itself is not currently being used. It would be an excellent use of the property,” said Barron.
The site Barron has in mind has at least one potential drawback.
“Access across Bear Creek or the train tracks is the only issue that would stand in the way as far as I can see,” he said.
One location that likely wouldn’t work is the marina.
“The marina is probably not big enough to get the aircraft through. It’s probably too tight of quarters,” said Barron. “They do mix sea plane operations and marinas sometimes, but it has to have more open water area than what a boat needs.”
Page 2 of 2 - Barron would not be the first person to operate a sea plane on the Hannibal riverfront. It was noted during the Airport Advisory Board meeting that a few decades ago a local pilot, Oscar Campbell, provided weekend rides in his plane and “stayed busy.”