The Caravan is the most modern commercially operated floatplane in the world today. It was originally designed and built in the 1980’s when the environmental impact of any new product was a worldwide concern. Knowing the aircraft was going to be used in remote areas and within national parks and undisturbed wilderness, Cessna made sure that the aircraft met and surpassed the requirements that the aircraft would not have any temporary or permanent negative impact on the environment. The amphibian Caravan meets these requirements in the following ways:
1) The most damaging and lasting impact any aircraft could have on the environment is the necessity for a man made landing and takeoff area. All fixed wing and rotary aircraft, with the only exception of the seaplane, required runways and landing pads. The amphibian seaplane departs from established airports and does not require any prepared landing or takeoff areas in the remote or undisturbed areas. This is the most important point about the aircraft. The Caravan can enter and leave from any national park or wilderness area without leaving a trace. Minutes after the aircraft leaves you can never tell it had been there.
2) The least damaging and most temporary impact an aircraft or any man made
vehicle could have on the environment is what it now called “noise pollution.”
Noise pollution is normally associated with the disturbance aircraft can make
within the vicinity of airports and airport environments, but in the national parks
and wilderness it can cause more than just annoyed neighbors. High impact noise
can disturb wildlife so that they may leave the area or worst the noise may scare
birds from their nests leaving them susceptible to predators. The Caravan’s noise
level is rated as one of the lowest of not only any aircraft but of most motorized
man made vehicles.
Having “no noise” underwater, moreover, is not a liability. Underwater noise is mostly omni directional and thus non-sonar sea life cannot distinguish from which direction a ship or boat is approaching. In these cases the noise is not the problem that mostly affects sea life. The worst affect is when sea life like fish, sharks, manatees, and sometimes even whales, are chopped by the underwater propellers of ships and boats. The amphib Caravan has no underwater propeller and thus cannot harm sea life. Moreover, the aircraft floats very lightly on the water only drawing 66cm of draft. Thus, the amphib Caravan has minimum to no affect on below surface sea life.
3) The third possibly damaging affect that any man made vehicle can have on national parks or wilderness areas is that of pollution. The design of the amphib Caravan prevents any pollution of its operating area. First of all, the Pratt & Whitney turbine engine is designed to operate with an absolutely zero tolerance of any fuel or oil leaks. If the engine develops any such leak the aircraft will be immediately grounded and no flight will take place. An engineer or pilot can look into any engine compartment of any Caravan at any time and will not find even one drop of oil or fuel. If the engine did develop an oil leak it would have to be pulled out, shipped to America, and rebuilt at an enormous cost to the operator. There is simply no tolerance for leaks.
Secondly, the turbine engine is extremely efficient compared to any piston engine powered boat or ship. The turbine engine will only burn a highly refined kerosene fuel that leaves no exhaust pollution. It burns 100% if its fuel. By comparison a diesel engine expel anywhere from 10% to 40% of un-burnt fuel as exhaust pollution, depending on the condition of the engine. Where Pratt & Whitney turbine engines are highly regulated and are not allowed to run inefficiently, ship and boat engines are not regulated and can create enormous pollution because of poor engine maintenance.
Finally, the amphib Caravan was designed to prevent any normal expulsion of fuel or oil from the engine during operation. For instance, the aircraft is always fuelled and maintained at the airport where any extra fuel or oil can be handled and disposed in a controlled environment. Where the engine is designed to expel excess fuel or oil while the engine is running the manufacturer has placed Environmental Protection Agency regulated canisters to catch such expulsion. These EPA canisters are highly regulated and maintained to avoid any such accidental expulsion of fuel or oil into the environment.
In comparison, boats and ships are either unregulated or loosely regulated and regularity expels dirty oil and unrefined diesel fuel over board and into the ocean. They are fuelled while in the water and engine oil is often changed on the water leaving behind spills and leaks. The unregulated crew will often dump dirty engine oil overboard as they have no place to store it on board. Moreover, because their drive shafts are under water any leaks in their seals will leave a streak of dirty engine oil along the ships path. Conscientious tourist industry operators can avoid damaging the environment, but many of the unregulated operators will not. Aircraft, being highly regulated and being maintained at airports will not pollute or disturb the natural environment.
The amphib Caravan
can enter and depart naturally sensitive areas by
air with out having to build access roads. Moreover the seaplane has the ability
to land and takeoff on short stretches of selected areas making it one
of the best alternatives for transferring passengers, especially environmentally sensitive
tourists, into and out of national parks, marine parks, and wilderness areas.
The fact that literally hundreds
of seaplanes are used throughout Canada,
Australia, America, Fiji and the Maldives, and operate regularly within the highly
regulated National Parks, Marine Parks, and Wildlife Reserves of these
countries, shows that these aircraft are considered a much more
environmentally friendly alternative to building runways or helipads, or
transferring guests using much slower and less environmentally friendly
Article and Images by John S Goulet
For an environmental impact study of your proposed operating area
The attitude indicator will guide you back to The Bush Pilot Company.
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Last modified on
March 07, 2006 .