Tavares: America’s Seaplane City

Residents and tourists alike look up at the sound of an approaching single-engine aircraft, gliding ever lower over the lake’s surface. The aircraft splashes down on the water, slows and then and taxis toward the docks. This is a new sight for folks along the Tavares, FL lakeshore. 

While this may be a new concept to current residents, the first seaplane took flight from this spot way back in 1914. 

The City of Tavares sits on the banks of Lake Dora in Lake County, FL. To fight the recession, city leadership decided to build a public seaplane base right on the shores of the downtown district, investing over $8 million dollars. The base, with its park-like setting, opened this past April to great fanfare, including a seaplane fly-in, lots of barbeque vendors, an antique auto show and music. 

It took 3 years from concept to splashdown, with lots of coordination between the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration. The final result is a virtual runway, charted on aviation and marine maps, which guides amphibious aircraft to land on the water. The seaplane base lies just 5 miles east of the Leesburg Regional Airport, KLEE. 

After Alaska and Minnesota, Florida has the third highest number of registered seaplanes in the country, so there is a big market for aviation enthusiasts. 

Already new businesses have opened along the shoreline, including restaurants, shops and a seaplane tour service. There is a ship’s/aircraft store that sells boat and aviation fuel right at the docks. The tour service is run by Jones Brothers & Co Air and Seaplane Adventures.

I had a chance to attend the grand opening of the new airport, designated FA1 by the FAA, back in April of this year, and took a few pictures for your enjoyment:

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