Saturday, June 22, 2024

Seaplane charter business wants to give customers a different way to travel, from Yorktown to Outer Banks

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Sam Riggs moved his family to southeastern Virginia six months ago for the express purpose of beginning a new company — a seaplane charter business — because the area offered him an opportunity to succeed.

“Seaplanes are just a magical thing,” he explained. “They’re unlike any other flying I’ve ever done. They’re flexible, romantic and a huge part of aviation history.”

As he was looking for a location to start a business, “we discovered the east coast of Virginia was hurting for a seaplane company,” he said. “There wasn’t one and I believe seaplanes can play a key role in these coastal communities.”

Riggs’ company is “small with a heart and a vision to grow with the communities,” he said. “We want to go hand and hand and not toe to toe. This area has been a maritime community for hundreds of years and we think this is where we ought to be.”

With headquarters at the Newport News-Williamsburg Airport, Coastal Seaplanes will offer charter trips — leisure and entertainment as well as commercial/business transportation.

For example, roundtrip from Newport News is $120 per person, and Newport News to Manteo/Nags Head is $320 per person. Scenic air tours are also available with flights starting at $195 per person.

There is an “on demand” charter service, and in July, a scheduled service twice a week to the Outer Banks will begin.

His efforts now deal with promoting the business, including working with York County to operate off Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown.

Riggs grew up in southern Central Florida and has lived in Texas, Alaska and southern Louisiana.

His wife, Rachel, is also a pilot; she flies helicopters “and really taught me how to fly,” he said.

Rachel initially was a chemist, became a pastry chef and then took lessons to become a helicopter pilot. She will not be a pilot for the new seaplane company because she flies as a med evac pilot for Med-Trans, a part of VCU Health, out of West Point, he explained.

Sam Riggs

Sam Riggs and his Cessna 202 amphibious seaplane, which can accommodate a pilot and three passengers with cargo and baggage. (Courtesy of Sam Riggs)

With a 3½-year-old son, the couple still manages to keep two jobs operating. When Rachel is flying, Riggs is available daily with the seaplane business when he is not taking or picking up their son from the Montessori school in Newport News, where they live.

Riggs previously moved his family from Alaska to Louisiana in November 2022 to start a seaplane business out of Galliano, Louisiana, about 75 miles south of New Orleans. He decided to move from Louisiana “because we believed there was a greater need for our service on the Virginia coast, where we also could raise our family,” he said.

Currently, Riggs flies a Cessna 202 amphibious seaplane, which can accommodate a pilot and three passengers with cargo and baggage. “Seaplanes are very weight limited,” he said, “and we want to accommodate families and larger groups.”

In the next 18 months, Riggs hopes to add an additional plane. “We want to look at optimal capacity, operational and maintenance costs in addition to efficiency and safety.”

Currently, areas of service include Newport News, Portsmouth, Yorktown, Cape Charles, Irvington (The Tides Inn) and Tangier Island in Virginia and Nags Head, Rodanthe, Avon, Frisco and Ocracoke in North Carolina. All area public airports also are available for ground landings.

For information regarding Coastal Seaplanes, email info@CoastalSeaplanes.com or call 757-206-2919.

Wilford Kale, kalehouse@aol.com

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