Philadelphia SPB (9N2) - By Rob Richardson, SeaRey Pilot (6/7/13)

Last Memorial weekend, I dropped into Philadelphia SPB (9N2) which sets 1/2 mile down river from the PHL IAP main runways.   The longtime owner had died at 90+ and his estate sold the place off to the local township.   The local police now use it as a river police/fire boat pier. Not much there. No AVGAS, though a local boater said a gas station was walking distance, as were a couple of restaurants a couple blocks inland.   I did not check them out, since he sponsored me for lunch at the local pvt "yacht Club" tavern next door. He liked my MD SeaRey.   The Police Chief stopped by as I was getting ready to depart. He was concerned I had a plane troubles.   He told me that they use to get a fair mount of traffic a year ago or so, but not much now. They had cleared out the hangars and applied for a grant to improve the ramp, hoping to keep the SPB active.


The AOPA and Seaplane Association info is out of date and provides no help as to how to fly into it.   The PHL Class B airspace provides a corridor over the Delaware River with the class B base stepping down from 1500 to 500 to 300ft so one can easily fly VFR and land on the river next to the SPB. I contacted PHL clearance delivery (they were the only ones answering the phone Memorial Weekend). They suggested I checked in with PHL tower on 135.1 as a courtesy. Coming up the Delaware River across Ft Delaware (see photo) @1000 ft over the I-295 DE Memorial Bridge, I called PHL tower and stated my attentions. They said no problem and cleared me into the Class B, if needed. It was straight forward flying up the right hand side, enjoying the industrial sights, stepping down to 300 ft, until I made a downwind to a left base to over the island that shelter the SPB water landing area. The only water hazards I could discern were pleasure boats and (I was told later) ocean going vessels that put up large wakes that even the large pleasure boats find hard to deal with. 

Above (or Attached) are photos of the facilities. It is rather rundown, but one can readily pull up to the floating dock if you mind the winds and river tidal flows. In my case, both were flowing upstream at about 3-5 knots each (6-10 knots). Took me 3-4 passes to position myself to drift down onto the dock(see my GPS end track). The acft ramp (gravel) to left of the seaplane pier/floating dock looked good and one can clear the flag pole to the rt at the top of the ramp and there is good size turn around grass area that could host 5-6 aircraft. The tide was low, and I could see the gravel ramp went out past the Lilly pads. The cement boat launch ramp to left of the flatting pier looked rough and steep, though one could reach the ramp area. It is not part of the SPB.   Do make note of not only the wind but also the current, which can be rather strong.

Getting out was straight forward. the Police chief showed up to gave me a hand to push off and clear the floating dock.   Though I could have used my 50 ft rope looped over one of the many docks boat cleats to let the river current slipping me out far enough to start up and power away while to pulling the rope in. As a courtesy I contacted PHL tower to sequence my takeoff/departure with the outbound PHL airline traffic flying overhead.   The next working day the PHL apch airspace coordinator returned my weekend phone call and said that they had no problems with seaplane traffic into 9N2. Calling PHL tower was not required but really appreciated. When I asked about water taxing up river past PHL IAP, he said that would not be a problem.

All in all a good experience, especially if you like industrial sightseeing. I plan to head back again this summer.   Next time I plan to land at 9N2, then step taxi up river past PHL airport to have a look at the Philadelphia Navy yard with the two decommissioned aircraft carriers (@4 miles) and at the historic Philadelphia waterfront (@7 miles) with the USS NJ and USS Olympia battleships.   Maybe their will be a floating dock I can tie up to to get a bite to eat. we will see. 

Location: 39.859209,-75.299457