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An air traffic controller warned the pilot of a Harbour Air DHC2 Beaver floatplane of a pontential conflict with a boat as the pilot got ready to take off for a sightseeing trip around Vancouver harbor last Saturday afternoon. The aircraft and boat collided a short time later, injuring three on the boat and heavily damaging the aircraft. The Coal Harbour area of Burrard Inlet is a designated floatplane aerodrome and has so much traffic that it has its own air traffic control tower mounted atop a highrise building.

The controller saw the boat entering the northern edge of Area Alpha, an area of the harbor designated for floatplane use. Boats are allowed to cross that patch of water but to keep a watch out for aircraft. “Express 5209 ready for northwest if you have time,” the Beaver pilot says on a recording obtained by CTV News. “Express 5209 caution for the westbound boat at northern alpha. Takeoff northwest at your discretion,” the controller responds.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is leading a multi-faceted investigation that also involves local police and their marine unit, the military search and rescue organization and Nav Canada. Sean Baxter, of the Vancouver Port Authority, told CTV boat operators need to be aware of other traffic. “Within the busy waters of a port, if you’re encountering deep sea vessels or sea planes it’s important to remember that those port users have limited visibility and can’t always see you clearly,” Baxter said.

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