An important day in the Croatian aviation revolution, as downtown Split sees the first commercial seaplane Split in 79 years, and Lastovo is reached in just 22 minutes.
An historic day in Croatian transportation history today, as European Coastal Airlines finally realised a 14-year dream of opening a station for their seaplane operation for downtown Split, a destination that once had regular seaplane flights, the last of which was back in 1936.
TCN was on the first flight from downtown Jelsa on Hvar, and perhaps there is no better way to tell the story than in pictures.
The 08:40 departure from Jelsa left early, with the latest Twin Otter to join the ECA fleet the vehicle of choice. TCN spoke to ECA CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin later in the day, who confirmed that a third Twin Otter is due to arrive next week, allowing further expansion of the ECA network.
The pretty northern harbour town of Jelsa made modern aviation history in Europe almost a year ago, by receiving the first scheduled seaplane flight in modern European aviation history, with a flight from Resnik, near Split Airport, on August 27, 2014. It has proved a popular route which has operated all year.
Finally preparations, and dockhandler Ivan cut the seaplane loose for its inaugural flight to downtown Split.
One of the concerns about seaplanes in busy harbours in some quarters has been the potential danger of a plane landing. According to law, a seaplane is considered a boat until in the air, and with maximum ability to manoeuvre, a seaplane is more responsive than many boats in the water, and the taxi to take-off this morning included some accommodation with some of the excellent athletes from the Jelsa Rowing Club.
And so to the air. Just how much fun could one have in 13 minutes in the air? TCN chose a left-hand seat for a bird’s eye view of the island of Zecevo and the Kabal Peninsula.
This seemed to be a wise strategy, as the picturesque peninsula shone in the morning sunshine. Until…
For one of the best views of the iconic Zlatni Rat beach on Bol, a right-hand seat was recommended. Too much to see in too short a time…
A flight over the picturesque coast of the island of Brac.
Until very soon the Dalmatian capital of Split came into view.
Not even Emperor Diocletian himself could have dreamed of an arrival like this.
A magnificent view of the harbour, as we veered right away from Split.
But not before one had checked out the competition – Jadrolinija ferries were plying their trade in the waters below.
And a landing, well away from the Split harbour. As a passenger on the plane, I can assure the skeptics about marine traffic being in danger that the only things on the Adriatic which were remotely affected by the ECA landing were a couple of seagulls 20 metres away, who seemed a little bemused by this giant bird in the sky.
And so began the taxi into Split, gorgeous views from the water aplenty.
And as the seaplane slowed, a jetski raced by. Marine life, with space for everyone.
The new ECA downtown Split terminal came into view. Located on the eastern side of the main harbour, the station has ticket office, toilets and cafe, with pleasant waterfront waiting area.
A first docking, and a new home for ECA, with some bigger and more established neighbours.
ECA CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin was clearly a happy man, after such a long struggle, and he pronounced it a great day for Split, which is now connected to downtown Pula in just over an hour, as well as daily connections to Jelsa on Hvar and the island of Lastovo.
TCN caught up with Captain Martin after his interview, and he confirmed that the Lastovo route will shortly be increased to two flights a day, that Rab will soon be reconnected later this month with the arrival of the third plane, and that Vela Luka on Korcula will be the next destination to open, probably within two weeks.
As an island resident of 13 years on Hvar, the very thought of being able to leave my front door and be in downtown Split in under an hour has been the stuff of fantasy. Today it became a reality.