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A plane belonging to Harbour Air lies partially submerged at the new dock facilities at the float plane terminal in Vancouver on November 5th, 2011. Questions have been previously raised about the new site's exposure. (Simon Hayter for The Globe and Mail/Simon Hayter for The Globe and Mail)
A plane belonging to Harbour Air lies partially submerged at the new dock facilities at the float plane terminal in Vancouver on November 5th, 2011. Questions have been previously raised about the new site's exposure. (Simon Hayter for The Globe and Mail/Simon Hayter for The Globe and Mail)

Float plane partially sinks at Vancouver terminal facing design complaints Add to ...

A float plane partially sank overnight at Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, a new float plane terminal in downtown Vancouver.

The plane, a single engine Otter owned by Harbour Air, had been loaded with barrels of water up to its departure weight limit of 4,000 kilograms (9,000 pounds) and tied to the dock Thursday as part of an engineering review of the facility.

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A preliminary investigation shows one of the plane's pontoons took on water during the night, Ledcor Group president Paul McElligott said on Saturday.

VHFC, built through a partnership between the Clarke Group and Ledcor Group, opened in May and was supposed to replace a temporary float plane facility in Coal Harbour operated by Harbour Air.

"The float furthest from the dock took on water and the plane's tail ended up in the water because of that - those are our conclusions," Mr. McElligott said.

Harbour Air CEO Greg McDougall disputes that explanation, saying the float closest to the dock was damaged while tied up to the dock, setting off a chain reaction that resulted in the plane's tail sinking into the water. VHFC is investigating the incident, which occurred early Saturday.

The mishap comes in the midst of a long-running standoff between VHFC and Harbour Air, the biggest float plane operator in the province.

Harbour Air has refused to move in to the new facility, saying the costs of using the facility are prohibitive.

And in September, Harbour Air raised safety concerns, saying one plane had been damaged at the new terminal and questioning whether docks were too high and whether the new facility was vulnerable to rough water.

VHFC says there are no safety issues at the facility and that it has been designed to exacting standards.

B.C. Pavilion Corp., which runs the convention centre where the new float plane terminal is located, commissioned an engineering review in September.

The city wants Harbour Air to move from its Coal Harbour site so it can reclaim part of a seawall path in that area. Some Coal Harbour residents have also complained of noise from float plane operations.

Follow on Twitter: @wendy_stueck

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