Flight Review: Seair Seaplanes Cessna Caravan from Richmond (YVR) to Nanaimo

Flight Review: Seair Seaplanes Cessna Caravan from Richmond (Vancouver International) to Nanaimo

Flight Information
Date
: May 18, 2018
Flight No.: SS1215
Route: Richmond (Vancouver International Airport) to Nanaimo
Airline: Seair Seaplanes
Type: Cessna 208 Caravan
Registration: C-GMOW

As mentioned in my article about plane spotting at Vancouver Harbour Seaplane Base, Seair Seaplanes is one of the two major seaplane airlines based in Canada’s British Columbia.

Using a fleet of Cessna Caravans mainly Cessna Caravans on floats, the airline operates scheduled (and charter) flights out of both Richmond Seaplane Base near Vancouver International Airport as well as from Coal Harbour Seaplane Base in downtown Vancouver.

During my trip to Canada back in May, I had a chance to fly on a Seair Seaplanes Cessna Caravan from Richmond to Nanaimo, a small city on Vancouver Island. The flight, besides being my first flight on the type and with the airline, also happened to be my first seaplane flight.

Getting to Richmond Seaplane Base

Philippe and I got out of our hotel in the morning and took the SkyTrain from the city to Vancouver International Airport. There, we were about to get on a complimentary shuttle bus to the airport’s south terminal where we expected Seair’s flights to depart from.

After getting on the bus, though, the drive said that it would be quite a walk from there and suggested taking another shuttle bus instead. At that point, I decided to call Seair to ask them what’s the best way to get to their terminal. I was told that they only had license to drop off passengers at the main terminal and that we would have to take a cab to get there.

We went to the taxi stand, got into the car, and a short ten-minute ride later, we got off in front of Seair’s small terminal on the shore of Fraser River.

Seair Seaplanes Richmond Terminal
Seair Seaplanes’ terminal in Richmond near Vancouver International Airport.

To our driver’s credit, as soon as we got on, he suggested we get off and take the free shuttle to South Terminal which turned out to be just a short walk away from Seair’s terminal. We decided against that, though, as the time of our departure was getting closer and closer.

A Quick Check-in at the Seair Seaplanes ‘Hut’

Right after arriving at the “terminal” around 8AM, we went inside and checked in for the flight. The check-in was very quick and involved a quick ID check and weighing of bags. There were no boarding passes for the flight.

Seair Seaplanes Richmond Terminal
Inside the simple terminal.
Bag with Laptop Tag
My bag with a “laptop” tag.
Luggage for Seair Flight
Luggage ready to be loaded.

With our bags dropped off and still some time left until our departure, we had a look around the area and watched some of the traffic at both the Seair Seaplanes pier as well as the Harbour Air pier next door.

Perhaps the most interesting part was seeing Seair staff move aircraft between the river and their hangar inside Vancouver International Airport using cars (cut in half and) and modified into towing trucks.

Seair Seaplanes Terminal Richmond
The airline’s pier on Fraser River.
Seair Seaplanes Apron at YVR
Seair Seaplanes’s apron at Vancouver International Terminal across the road from the seaplane terminal.
Harbour Air DHC-2 Beaver
Harbour Air’s DHC-2 Beaver in a special livery.
Seair Seaplanes Cessna Caravan
One of Seair’s Cessna Caravans entering Fraser River.
Seair Seaplanes Custom Tow Truck
A car modified into a seaplane towing truck. Quite an interesting sight!

Boarding a Cessna Caravan for the First Time

Around 8:45AM – our originally scheduled departure time – the captain (and sole pilot) of our flight picked us up and took us to the covered part of the pier where he gave us a quick briefing about safety onboard the aircraft.

Briefing Room
“Briefing room” where the captain gave us a presentation about the aircraft’s safety features.
Seair Seaplanes Cessna Caravan
The aircraft that would take us to Nanaimo ready for boarding.

Then we followed him towards C-GMOW, the Cessna Caravan that operated our flight, and got onboard.

While I can imagine challenging Philippe to a game of rock-paper-scissors to determine who would get to sit in the copilot seat, that was not necessary as there was one girl who had that spot secured – likely a frequent passenger.

Well, better luck next time!

Boarding Seair Seaplanes in Richmond
Me getting onboard. (Photo credit: Philippe Lachenal)

Taking Off from Fraser River on a Seair Cessna Caravan

Once the half-a-dozen or so passengers got onboard, the captain finished off the safety demonstration by showing us where the life vests and emergency exits were and how to use them in case of emergency. And, with that done, we were ready to go.

We taxied out straight from the pier at 8:56AM with about a ten minute delay.

Seair Cessna Caravan Cockpit
Ready for departure.
Taxiing for Take Off
Taxiing for take off.

We made a U-turn, and started the take off run which ended up being smoother than many of the take off rolls I’ve experienced on “real” runways. That was a surprise!

We smoothly lifted off at 9AM sharp. Once we were pointed towards Nanaimo, we stayed at a fairly low altitude for quite a while to not get into Vancouver International Airport traffic’s way.

Seair Cessna Take Off
Speeding up on Fraser River.
Richmond
A view out of the large window seconds after take off.
Vancouver International Airport
Flying by Vancouver International Airport right after take off.

Since Nanaimo is located just 60 or so kilometers away from Vancouver, the “cruise” took only about ten minutes or so.

The two cities are separated by the Strait of Georgia, and so there was not much to see along the water except for the ferry that connects Vancouver Island to the mainland and is part of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Ferry
Overtaking the ferry shortly after take off.

Arriving in Departure Bay

About thirteen minutes after take off, the engine’s power decreased as we started our steep descent which included a sharp left turn to get ourselves aligned the way we needed to be. And, just seconds later, at 9:14AM, we arrived in Departure Bay. In other words, we landed in Nanaimo.

Descending into Departure Bay
Descending into Nanaimo’s Departure Bay.
Landing
Sharp turn shortly before landing.

Two minutes of taxiing later, we stopped at the pier used exclusively by Seair (Harbour Air uses another seaplane base on the other side of the city).

We got off the aircraft, chatted with the pilot for a bit and then got on our way to have a quick look around Nanaimo before having to catch a bus to Victoria where we stayed for a night before catching our Harbour Air flight to Vancouver.

But, more about that in the next part of this series.

Taxiing to Nanaimo Seair Seaplanes Base
Taxiing to Seair Seaplane’s Nanaimo base.
Seair Seaplanes Taxiing in Nanaimo Departure Bay
A photo taken later in the day from Departure Bay ferry terminal. Similar to what the moment above looked like from the outside.
Seair Seaplanes Cessna Caravan in Nanaimo
One last look at the aircraft that took us to Nanaimo.
Seair Seaplanes Nanaimo
A sign pointing to Seair’s Nanaimo base.

Seair Seaplanes Cessna Caravan Summary

If you are just looking for a way to get from Vancouver to Nanaimo you might be better off saving some money and taking the ferry which takes about two hours. But, if you are an aviation enthusiast, I certainly recommend taking the seaplane flight – especially if you haven’t flown on a seaplane before.

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