At least two people were injured when a Harbour Air Beaver floatplane was in collision with a pleasure boat in Coal Harbour off downtown Vancouver Saturday. A video obtained by Global News from a witness appears to show the Beaver on its takeoff run when it hits the boat and bounces into the air before plunging in the water and partly submerging. The injured people were on the boat and the six people on the plane were uninjured. Two others on the boat also escaped injury.

The aircraft was reportedly on a chartered sightseeing flight. Harbour Air runs regularly scheduled flights from the Coal Harbour base to Victoria, Seattle and other coastal communities. As for right of way, the Canadian Aviation Regulations, Section 602.20 (1) says this: “Where an aircraft on the water has another aircraft or a vessel on its right, the pilot-in-command of the first-mentioned aircraft shall give way.” But the accident occurred in an area of the harbor that is supposed to be reserved for floatplane operations. Multiple aviation, nautical and police authorities are trying to unravel it all.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. It’s a designated seaplane base accompanied by a control tower to manage aircraft movements in the harbour. There is also a very active heliport operating here. There is considerable marine traffic with cruise ships, container and bulk vessels operating here as well as two large passenger ferries. The marine police can’t be everywhere and it looks like the holes in the Swiss cheese lined up this time unfortunately.

    • With the pilot sitting in the left seat and a passenger in the right seat, and the nose of the engine cowling elevated (as seen in the video), it strikes me that the boat was not visible to the pilot. I see no improvement in safety by standing pat on the status quo of who has the right of way. Some change in procedure is needed from this experience to avoid a rerun.

  2. Smartphones with good cameras, along with other surveillance devices, are now everywhere, making it easier to capture unforseen moments. This change has turned everyone into a bit of a journalist, documenting events as they happen. However, it raises privacy concerns since we can be recorded at any time. Overall, it’s amazing how this technology has made capturing the unexpected so common!

    • And accompanied by a big drop in Bigfoot, Loch Ness monster, and aliens from a UFO sightings. Funny how as the quantity of cameras and the image quality went way up, all that nonsense went way down.

    • Privacy is not an issue. I don’t know about Canadian law, but in the U.S. our 1974 Privacy Act says you have no reasonable expectation of privacy over ANYTHING you do, say, portray or write in the public eye. If someone can see it, someone can record it.That also goes for what happens on your private property that can been seen or heard.

      • Aside from this being a non sequitur, the 1974 Privacy Act does nothing of the sort. The Act says that any information collected by the government shall be made available to public.

        • The cite is wrong, but the heart of the matter – that you have no expectation of privacy – is hardly a non-sequitur; it directly addresses Raf’s “However, it raises privacy concerns since we can be recorded at any time.” comment.

      • That’s not due to the privacy act, but because of precedent going back to the founding of our nation. Plus common sense. If you’re in public, why would you expect someone not to overhear your conversation or see what you’re doing?

  3. As a commercial seaplane pilot, I constantly worry about boats getting in the way of takeoffs and landings. It seems like many pleasure boat operators haven’t the foggiest idea of what is happening around them. Even operating my own pontoon boat on the lake where I live supports this. In the USA FAA regulations say that seaplanes must give way to all other craft. The reality is that it is difficult to avoid a boat that crosses your path during takeoff or landing but from this video I would think that the seaplane pilot should have been able to see the approaching boat and avoid it in time. When you start the takeoff run, the nose is high until you get on the step, which can obscure the visibility ahead of you. It’s been a while since I flew a Beaver on amphibs but as I remember it, the large nose makes forward visibility even harder. Maybe that was a factor here.

  4. Seems a more obvious stance would be for “Boats to give way to Seaplanes” the more maneuverable to the less maneuverable in a takeoff or landing phase. Then back to the standard “boats first” rule while the plane taxi’s . Perhaps a little more training for boaters as well.

  5. You know what’s great? The airplane runs over the boat (I’m not assigning blame) and the boat goes straight over to help the people in the plane.

    • I think the boat was out of control after it was struck. It was the two people in the boat who were injured. [Also, sorry, I accidentally hit the “report” button instead of the “reply” button. Early; not enough coffee yet.]

      • I think everybody hits the giant ‘report’ button next to the miniscule ‘reply’. Any guesses as to how long it will take them to change it?

        The boat had to turn to get to the airplane, stopped when it got there and the injuries to the two boaters were minor.

  6. This accident reminds me of an old saying – “it takes two people to have a collision, but only one to avoid it.”

    In general (and very simplistically), a powerboat has to give way to another powerboat that’s to its right. Put another way, a boat that is dead ahead (noon) to about 4 o’clock (over your right shoulder) has right-of-way over you. This is related to why most powerboats have the cockpit on the right side of the boat – that position gives the best visibility for seeing and avoiding any hazards. (Which also means a seaplane with the pilot on the left is at something of a disadvantage).

    Conversely, anyone on your left (from about 8 o’clock to noon) has to give way to you.

    However, the rules also state the EVERYONE is responsible for avoiding a collision regardless of who’s “right”.

    • So if a boat is dead ahead and approaching, by definition both boats are at each other’s 12 o’clock. How does that circle get squared? (assuming power boats, since for sailboats whoever is on starboard has right of way…)

    • “ Right of Way — Aircraft Manoeuvring on Water

      602.20 (1) Where an aircraft on the water has another aircraft or a vessel on its right, the pilot-in-command of the first-mentioned aircraft shall give way.”

    • “Boaters must keep clear of seaplane runways.”

      Transport Canada rules:

      “Victoria Harbour is a water airport. Boaters must keep clear of seaplane runways. There are two seaplane runways in the Port of Victoria. One is in the Middle Harbour and one is in the Outer Harbour. They are very active. Upwards of 100 flights take off or land in the port per day.White strobe lights on top of beacons (at Shoal Point, Laurel Point and Berens Island, and on Pelly Island) flash when a seaplane is about to takeoff or land. When you see the strobe lights, use extreme caution.”

  7. Sounds a bit trite to say it, under the circs, but it is interesting to consider that had the boat been electrically powered (and therefore no engine noise), those on board may well have heard the aircraft in time to avoid a collision…

  8. Once at risk of collision (in maritime law “in extremis”) the concept of “right of way” no longer applies, both parties share in the responsibility to avoid collision.

    Regardless, a bit more situational awareness would have helped on part of both parties. Being “correct” and dead is also an undesirable outcome.

  9. As both a pilot and a boater, it appears to me as though the boat is in the pilot’s blind spot, whereas the aircraft would have been clearly visible to the boaters. Even if the boat had the right of way (which is questionable, given that this part of the harbour MAY be reserved for floatplanes), the boater still had the responsibility to avoid the collision.

    • I had the same thought about visibility. During the early part of the seaplanes run, the high nose angle could eadoly have obscured the host, along with the thick forward pillars on the beaver .

  10. I don’t care who had right of way here, the boat is the more maneuverable vehicle and should have given way to the plane to avoid the collision. How that guy didn’t see the plane coming at him is beyond me.

    • Exactly. The boat seemed to stay on course and speed as if it expected a plane to avoid it. The plane did have an unusually long takeoff run for a Beaver so would the boat claim they expected the plane to be in the air before they got to the point of collision?
      I agree with you. The boat could have easily avoided this.

  11. Has everyone discounted the fact that this is a designated seaplane operations area? See and avoid is still the best practice, but if a pilot is operating in a legally designated area and the circumstances are that he does have a “blind spot,” why should he take the blame? If operating a land based plane at an airport on a takeoff roll, most would not consider a driver cutting across the airport to save time, to be in the right.

  12. As a boater, pilot, ex-professional mariner (USN) and retired Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Instructor, it is obvious the boater was not keeping a lookout as the plane was very visible; it would only have taken a 5 – 10 degree alteration of course to pass behind the plane. Yes, by the rules of the road, the boater had the right of way but ONLY UNTIL the risk of collision was in extremis. At that point, everyone is bound to take action to avoid the collision. The issue that is far too common now is that boaters put their boats on auto-pilot and go have a drink with no one keeping watch. Many boaters get on the water with no training and no idea how to read a chart, or what would indicate an area restricted to aircraft on the water. They may not even have a chart. Pleasure boating is indeed the wild west so don’t assume anything when approaching a pleasure boat. Delay your takeoff or landing until your pathway is totally clear. They may be drunk, asleep, reading a book or down below making lunch, sadly the odds of them keeping a proper lookout are not in your favor.

    • Completely agreed, always assume any pleasure boat is operated by a highly impaired, highly incompetent, or both, individual capable of the most clueless and reckless behavior at anytime.

      This is a perfect example.

      • Fact. Maybe less so for sailboats but as for powerboats/wake boats/ski boats alcohol and boating frequently go together.

        Need proof? Go to the ramp and watch these boaters try to back in a trailer and retrieve their boats.

  13. A boat at low speed like this one was can stop almost dead in a few seconds, turn quickly or even back up, a floatplane cant do any of this. Watching this accident was like looking at a baby crawling towards a busy road.

    The boat operator and passengers could clearly see and hear that big radial engine bearing down on them but were completely oblivious, they are very, very lucky no one was killed or seriously injured.

  14. My two cent’s: The pilot of the aircraft, sitting on the left side and with a huge round nose in front of him, could not see the fast moving boat off his right. The boat, on the other hand, should have seen the big airplane and its’ wake coming at him in time to slow, or turn. What was the boat skipper/operator doing that distracted him? (Rhetorical question).

    • Does anyone know whether Harbour Air uses two crew for the Beaver? I’ve flown them twice, but only on the Twin Otter where they have two crew. If there was an F.O. then the blind spot theory would be questionable, if no F.O. then for sure there would be blind spot for the pilot.

  15. On a cottage lake in Ontario, I have seen Seadoos and boats racing around floatplanes causing the pilots to abort take off and go around the lake to try another take off. Some nautical people have sh*t for brains.. Sorry.. My take on the matter..

      • In good weather, which is most of the time, San Diego Harbor gets very busy with big Navy ships, cruise ships, container ships, and pleasure boats everywhere. There are speed restrictions enforced by the Harbor Police, but, other than that, it is a free-for-all. Heading to sea a few years ago I passed a big motor yacht (60 ft. plus) being piloted from the fly bridge by a kid who could not have been older than 12. He was doing OK, but he was handling a big ocean going boat in a crowded channel. The Harbor Police tell me that on a busy day they often stop recreational boats on which everyone, including the helmsman, is very drunk. Insurers help some to assure competent handling of big yachts because for the really big ones they require a licensed Master to be aboard during operations and coverage is lost if the Master is not aboard. There is no simple solution to this problem, but it would not hurt to require some knowledge and proof of basic handling skills to operate in busy harbors. “See and avoid” is a great rule both in the air and on water.

        • Honestly, I’d be a lot happier with a 12-year-old raised in boats, than with a lot of adult weekend renters. Or whoever was nominally in charge of the boat in this case.

  16. When I got my floatplane rating in a Super Cub in the California Sierra foothills the biggest danger on the lakes was alcoholics on jet ski’s and wake boats.

    • I once saw a ski boat playing “chicken” with an aircraft carrier which was in the channel to leave San Diego Harbor by repeatedly swerving back and forth in front of the carrier’s bow. What the idiotic or drunken boat driver did not know is that the carrier cannot change course in the channel because, if it did so, it would end up grounded both bow and stern completely blocking the channel. This would have quickly ended the Captain’s career and possibly landed him in prison. If the Captain had been asked what he would have thought about running over the ski boat, his answer might have been: “Oh well!”

    • Hello William. I too got my seaplane ratings (single and multi) in Calaveras County! Back in the early nineties I made many a takeoff and landing in the Spence Ranch pond on Comanche Creek. We trained on Don Pedro, New Melones and Hogan lakes. When I cam back the next year I took the advanced course and made landings in some of the higher mountain lakes like Salt Springs reservoir, Cherry Lake Tahoe and a couple of other whose name escape me now. I also went to the splash-in at Clearlake and got to fly a Lake Buccaneer for awhile and make a couple takeoffs and landings in that as well as 182.

      One thing the owner of the school, a DPE liked to emphasize was that boaters would see a seaplane as an attraction and swarm toward you to get a better look. He said to give them a wide berth and shut down if they got too close.

      While I took my single engine sea ride with the owner/DPE, I took my multi ride with an FAA inspector because the owner/DPE was gone on an airline trip. Funny ting is the FAA inspector had exactly the same view regarding operating near boaters. They were both right!

  17. The boating rules are a little more complicated than “Whomever is on the right, has the right of way.” However, common sense should tell the boater to stay away from seaplanes. In places where seaplanes are more common, the required boater training should include seaplane vs. seaplane operations.

    If there is a controlling organization (aircraft or harbor control) you’d think that they’d make call on VHF 16 (or Canadian equivalent) when a seaplane was landing or taking off. (Yes, not all boats are required to have radios, but it would probably help to make these calls.)

    • The harbor has strobes that indicate when a a seaplane is landing or taking off.

      “Victoria Harbour is a water airport. Boaters must keep clear of seaplane runways. There are two seaplane runways in the Port of Victoria. One is in the Middle Harbour and one is in the Outer Harbour. They are very active. Upwards of 100 flights take off or land in the port per day.White strobe lights on top of beacons (at Shoal Point, Laurel Point and Berens Island, and on Pelly Island) flash when a seaplane is about to takeoff or land. When you see the strobe lights, use extreme caution.”

  18. Aircraft are less able to maneuver when taking off or landing.
    Whatever the law is at present, it needs to be changed to recognise reality.
    Aircraft should have the right of way over all powered watercraft.
    Boaters have too many operators who lack basic sense.
    Boaters will race aircraft or cut in front of them, creating extreme hazards.
    This incident could have resulted in multiple fatalities; use the incident as a reason to change the rules; now.
    (In Canada, boat operators are required to have Operators Certificates; a check of the information and the exams doesn’t expose the issues of operating near aircraft)

  19. Sam Parsons (“As a boater, pilot, ex-professional mariner (USN) and retired Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Instructor) ” – with his post listed above, nailed it.

    I, myself, as a current SEL aircraft pilot and aircraft owner, who operated on water as a floatplane SES pilot years ago, and as an owner of 5 different inboard engine recreational boat models from 1980–2016, and as a member since 1969 in volunteer fire/rescue squads as well as a 39 year long career in a paid rescue unit — I must say that unfortunately numerous pleasure craft boaters do NOT take any type of in-depth training over and above what the bare minimum by law stipulates is required to obtain a boating license in the first place, as nothing more than an intrusion into their fun factor of being out on the water with safety management the furthest from their minds.
    They do not know how to read a maritime / harbor chart, have no clue as to collision avoidance regulations, do not know and do not care to understand floatplane ops as to how it affects their boating operation, do not know how to dock; routinely operate with liquor flowing onboard; operate without PFD equipment; and routinely operate without any attention to situational awareness around them.

    After 5 boats; I packed it in – because of the above reasons- and because family and friends that rode as passengers, basically said that ” this is insane, especially on a weekend; the manner in which others operate their pleasure craft.”

    Here it is June 10, and since the boating season opened up in my area alone, there have been 4 or 5 collisions already just between other boaters in daylight with serious injuries/deaths and with the Maritime State Police Unit and the County Sheriff’s Maritime Water Patrol arresting the boat operators for operation while under the influence.

    I laughed when, in the above video, Bruce Hayne, Director of B.C. Boating (Boaters Association) stated ” that he would be very hesitant to blame the boater. “

    • 10 out of 10 Frank, I’ve seen most of it as well having flown floatplanes commercially for years and worked in the marine industry for 42 years. Anyone with money can buy a boat and operate it without a clue until the inevitable happens.

  20. There is audio of the plane asking for takeoff and being “cleared and told of a boat crossing, right to left.

    Their control system failed, as well as right of way or see and avoid.

  21. Right of way? The bigger boat always has the right of way. Do you really want to argue with 40’ cruiser throwing a 4’ wake while you and your favorite person sit in a 12’ dinghy that technically you have the right of way? Not to smart.

    From a common sense standpoint and probably a legal one also, the least maneuverable always has the right of way. Of course there are always those who will argue with a 600’ freighter.

    • As a kid, I sailed 12′ boats in a harbor that had shipping coming and going. It was very clear to us that “power gives way to sail” was not going to happen!

  22. Very sobering to watch the video of what happened to this pilot on his takeoff run. The only way to avoid this accident would have been to leave the airplane tied up and leaving the water surface to the “more important” people in the boat.

    Various Youtubers (lets call them click-bait experts…) have picked this up, commenting very expertedly on this mishap. Nobody “signs up” to have accidents. Even dumb people can see what transpired, without all the useless blahblah.

    That pilot had no stinking chance in hell to see and avoid – who would have kept going straight with a visible boat conflict in sight? – nevertheless blame will likely land on the pilot. I have no significant experience in type, but would bet last years salary (none of it from writing aviation related content) on the authorities “quick thinking actionism” in preventing further malfeasances against the larger part of the lakes user-group.

    Like it or not, many of the waterflying dinosaurs have been concerned about such a potential mishap in this particular location. Very very busy visuals on approach and departure and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to evaluate the risk in operating there.

    Time will tell how the “authorities” (who let this happen in the first place by allowing boats on a potentially active RUNWAY) will react to this.

  23. Update: To the surprise of no one, the boat operator has been charged with operating while under the influence of alcohol.

  24. “Boaters must keep clear of seaplane runways.”

    Transport Canada rules:

    “Victoria Harbour is a water airport. Boaters must keep clear of seaplane runways. There are two seaplane runways in the Port of Victoria. One is in the Middle Harbour and one is in the Outer Harbour. They are very active. Upwards of 100 flights take off or land in the port per day.White strobe lights on top of beacons (at Shoal Point, Laurel Point and Berens Island, and on Pelly Island) flash when a seaplane is about to takeoff or land. When you see the strobe lights, use extreme caution.”

  25. I have spent thousands of hours at the helm of a boat and maybe 200 hrs in the right seat of a float plane. Beavers, Caravans and Helios.
    Regardless of who had the right of way, I place the blame on the boat captain.
    The only way the boat captain could have not seen and heard that Beaver is if his head was placed securely up his rear end.
    He or she had more than enough time to avoid the collision by either stopping (throttling down) or turning. That boat could have safely turned away without touching the throttle.
    I don’t know if piloting a boat in Canada requires any sort of training but maybe it should.
    Fortunately no one was seriously injured or killed.
    I’ll be curious to see what the TSB has to say.