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Seaborne Airlines adds new seaplane to fleet, plans to expand routes to new island destinations

The new seaplane that Seaborne Airlines acquired from Canada lands today at the Svend Aage Ovesen Jr. Seaplane Terminal in Christiansted.
The new seaplane that Seaborne Airlines acquired from Canada lands today at the Svend Aage Ovesen Jr. Seaplane Terminal in Christiansted.

ST. CROIX — Seaborne Airlines has added a new seaplane to its fleet, providing a more comfortable trip between St. Croix and St. Thomas that passengers had their first chance to experience during a soft opening on Thursday, according to a Seaborne official.

Seaborne, the largest Caribbean-based regional airline for over 25 years, plans to overhaul two older seaplanes to grow its fleet to three by the end of the year and eventually expand routes to new island destinations, Leah Sheppard, Seaborne’s general manager, said.

Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte shared his thoughts on the new seaplane after traveling in it on a flight today to St. Croix from St. Thomas. He said his trip was “really nice, efficient, and quiet.” He spoke about the additional connectivity and reliability the new seaplane brings.

“Anytime we can improve on our ability to not only have seats in the territory on a whole, but especially between islands — St. Thomas/St. John District and St. Croix District — is a true asset to the overall economy, for one because now we can move back and forth with more reliability from a second location at the airports, but now from downtown to downtown,” Boschulte said. “And I think secondly, it helps us in terms of providing another way for our tourist travelers to come in to see more than one island on the trip, so I'm ecstatic.”

Sheppard said the maintenance requirements for seaplanes are different than traditional planes that land at airports. She said seaplane maintenance must consider a variety of factors like saltwater, corrosion, and the impact from rough seas when the seaplanes take off and land.

“Everything plays a huge factor in maintaining a seaplane,” she said. “We do operate at the highest safety levels, so we do have to ensure that everything is up to par before we can even take out an aircraft.”

Seaborne is now operating with one older seaplane and the newly-acquired aircraft from Canada. The airline has a third seaplane that is being overhauled in Canada. When that seaplane returns to the territory, Seaborne will send its other older seaplane to be overhauled.

“We are looking at having three in the fleet by the end of the year,” Sheppard said.

The new seaplane has 15 seats, which is the same number as the existing seaplanes. The seats, however, are leather and the cabin is roomier.

“The interior’s brand-new,” Sheppard, who oversees the operations of the seaplane terminals in Christiansted and Charlotte Amalie, said. “The seating’s completely different from what we’ve had with our last two aircrafts. We do plan to have better comfort than what most customers were accustomed to with the new seating.”

The interior of Seaborne Airlines’ newly-acquired seaplane has 15 soft, leather seats and a roomy cabin.
Seaborne Airlines Facebook page
The interior of Seaborne Airlines’ newly-acquired seaplane has 15 soft, leather seats and a roomy cabin.

The addition of the new aircraft and overhaul of the existing seaplanes will not only result in more connectivity and reliability when it comes to inter-island travel, but it will also allow Seaborne to expand its operations throughout the Caribbean.

“What we eventually plan to do by adding on more aircrafts to our fleet is so that we can actually start venturing off to different locations,” Sheppard said, adding that she couldn’t say at this time which islands they will be including as destinations.

Building up its fleet also creates redundancy for Seaborne so the airline will not have to cancel flights if a part breaks down on a seaplane.

“That would mean we would just interchange the aircraft so that we wouldn’t have to cancel or re-accommodate anybody,” Sheppard said.

Silver Airways, the first commercial carrier founded in Florida, acquired Seaborne Airlines in 2018. Silver operates the most routes within Florida and between Florida and the Bahamas from its hubs in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa, as well as flights connecting Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean. Silver also flies seasonally between Boston and Maine. Seaborne operates from the territory’s two seaplane terminals — the Svend Aage Ovesen Jr. Seaplane Terminal in Christiansted and the Charles F. Blair Seaplane Terminal in Charlotte Amalie. Silver operates from the territory’s two airports — the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix and the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas.

The new seaplane has the new Seaborne/Silver logo on the tail. Staff will also get uniforms displaying the new logo.

Seaborne is planning a grand opening with the new seaplane on Monday, offering customers breakfast and giveaways featuring the new Seaborne/Silver logo. Customers will also have a chance to win a one-way ticket on Seaborne as “golden tickets” will be randomly placed underneath passenger seats, which the airline started doing when the new seaplane made its inaugural trip on Thursday.

Now that the new seaplane is operating between St. Croix and St. Thomas, Sheppard said the Seaborne team is “excited.” She acknowledged all the hard work of the airline’s maintenance staff, departments, and managers to launch the new aircraft.

“It’s a great, exciting experience for us so we’re hoping to see many more of that to come,” she said.

Tom Eader is the Chief Reporter for WTJX. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Eader received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University, where he wrote for his college newspaper. He moved to St. Croix in 2003, after landing a job as a reporter for the St. Croix Avis. Eader worked at the Avis for 20 years, as both a reporter and photographer, and served as Bureau Chief from 2013 until their closure at the beginning of 2024. Eader is an award-winning journalist, known for his thorough and detailed reporting on multiple topics important to the Virgin Islands community. Joining the WTJX team in January of 2024, Eader brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the newsroom. Email: | Phone: 340-227-4463