By Jack Glenn, The News Tribune
The first float plane flight for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians soared out of Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Wash., from the new seaplane terminal on Ruston Way on Thursday morning.
Scenic flights for the public will be available starting Friday, Aug. 11.
“It’s an awesome idea. It’ll help bring economy to all Pierce County and the Tribe,” said Puyallup Tribe Council member James Rideout, minutes after getting off the plane.
Rideout flew on the first official flight with his fellow council members.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Rideout said. “What I just flew over, those waterways, they’ve been a part of my entire life.”
The new seaplane terminal intends to bring in commerce and tourism to Puyallup ancestral lands and the city of Tacoma.
“It’s good for the Tribe. It’s good for our community. It’s good everyone,” Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier said. “Creating this destination here … it’s going to increase tourism in Tacoma.”
The surprisingly smooth, yet loud, flights take nine passengers from Ruston Way to near Fox Island, flying over the Narrows Bridge. On clear day, you get a bird’s-eye view of Mount Rainier.
Kenmore Air provides passengers with headphones, playing a voice tour while you glide over Commencement Bay. Flights cruise consistently at 1,000 feet, fly at about 120 mph and land at about 80 mph, said Jay Todhunter, Kenmore Air’s chief pilot.
“It should help bring Tacoma on the map,” said Bill Sterud, Puyallup Tribe council chairman. “This is our fishing area. This was all longhouses … it’s always been ours and always will be.”
Flights to the San Juan Islands and Victoria are planned for the future, with intentions to have multiple planes, said David Gudgel, CEO of Kenmore Air.
Tickets for the 30-minute scenic tours can be purchased at kenmoreair.com. Trips can be taken from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and cost US$99 per person per flight.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Rideout said Thursday morning. “This tells you about the historical significance of who we are as a Tribe.”
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