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article imageSeaplane Saturday: Community in Dalmatia, history in Istria Special

By Paul Bradbury     Dec 20, 2014 in Travel
Pula - A busy day for Europe's first modern scheduled seaplane operation in Croatia, starting with a school flight in Dalmatia followed by a historic flight to Istria.
After the first seaplane flight to Sibenik in 80 years earlier this week, the European Coastal Airlines seaplane expansion continued in Croatia on December 20, 2014, with a presentation flight to the Istrian city of Pula, after a well-received community gesture in Jelsa on Hvar.
Jelsa was the recipient of the inaugural commercial flight in ECA's history in August this year, and the route from Split Airport to Croatia's premier island of Hvar has proved to be popular, with a fully operational service for the 2015 season a guaranteed smash hit.
Expectation was high as the ECA plane landed after a short flight from Split Airport.
Expectation was high as the ECA plane landed after a short flight from Split Airport.
The seaplane service has also caught the imagination of the local population, however, and an introductory promotional fare of 99 kuna (US$18) enabled many residents to try the flight.
There was considerable excitement before boarding.
There was considerable excitement before boarding.
Local schoolteacher Daniela Lucic, whose parents took the flight on her mother's 68th birthday, approached the airline to see if it was possible for the airline to provide discounted tickets to her pupils.
National television was on hand to record the event  and the flight will be featured on  Good Mornin...
National television was on hand to record the event, and the flight will be featured on 'Good Morning Croatia' on Monday morning.
With community relations part of its core activities — ECA insists on local suppliers where possible and has sponsored local team Hajduk Split for two years to the tune of US$500,000 — the Croatian airline agreed to provide a complimentary flight for the children of Jelsa's third grade, a flight which was accompanied by national television and local media.
Popular Danish pilot Maria Amalie Wiuff was on hand to help the children onto the plane.
Popular Danish pilot Maria Amalie Wiuff was on hand to help the children onto the plane.
The 20-minute panorama flight took the class on a tour of western Hvar, over Hvar Town and the fabled Pakleni Islands, and it highlight one of the additional potentials of the seaplane service: panoramic flights.
An excited Jelsa school  third grade  awaiting take-off.
An excited Jelsa school, third grade, awaiting take-off.
Expectant parents were waiting at the small Jelsa sea port for the return of their loved ones, after which a small party was held. Coincidentally, it was the birthday of teacher Lucic, who had prepared a special seaplane cake for the occasion.
The ECA departure lounge  awaiting the flight.
The ECA departure lounge, awaiting the flight.
The flight completed, it was time for the experienced Danish pilots to take to the skies once more to play their part in the latest part in Croatian aviation history. After the successful flight to Sibenik this week, the Twin Otter headed north for its inaugural flight to the Istrian city of Pula.
The 20-minute panorama flight included a tour of Hvar Town and the Pakleni Islands.
The 20-minute panorama flight included a tour of Hvar Town and the Pakleni Islands.
Maria Amalie Wiuff
ECA CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin was on the flight and cut the welcoming ribbon to the airline's newest destination, and one which is sure to prove popular. Starting on January 1, 2015, flights to Split via Rab will start, costing 77 euro one way and take 90 minutes. This compares favourably with the current option of an 11-hour bus ride for about 20 percent less.
The Pakleni Islands opposite Hvar Town  just one of the main jewels which are making Croatia one of ...
The Pakleni Islands opposite Hvar Town, just one of the main jewels which are making Croatia one of Europe's top destinations.
Maria Amalie Wiuff
Connections between Split and Pula are sorely needed, particularly in the tourist season, and the addition of Pula to the network is a further boost to ECA's growth, and the benefits for tourists in 2015 should be felt. Existing routes and demonstration flights have taken place in Jelsa (Hvar), Split, Split Airport, Sibenik, Rab, Mali Losinj, Rijeka, Pula and Zagreb Airport.
The flight concluded with a flyover of Jelsa and the ECA station.
The flight concluded with a flyover of Jelsa and the ECA station.
Daniela Lucic
With connections with airports such as Rijeka and Ancona also agreed, the level of choice and convenience for Croatia's 2015 visitors will be significant.
Jelsa teacher Daniela Lucic  whose idea led to the flight  was celebrating her birthday with a well-...
Jelsa teacher Daniela Lucic, whose idea led to the flight, was celebrating her birthday with a well-themed cake.
The addition of Pula is an exciting development for Croatian tourism. Somewhat isolated due to poor national airline connections and its geographical position, it has become established as one of the country's most innovative tourism destinations, with festivals such as Lighting Giants, a spectacular light festival which was attended by Digital Journal earlier this year.
European Coastal Airlines lands in the Istrian city of Pula.
European Coastal Airlines lands in the Istrian city of Pula.
The highlight of the festival was the lighting of the iconic Uljanik shipyard cranes, which continue to light up each evening as a rival tourist attraction to the Roman Amphitheatre in the Pula skyline.
ECA CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin cuts the ribbon at the latest seaplane destination. Scheduled fl...
ECA CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin cuts the ribbon at the latest seaplane destination. Scheduled flights are due to begin on January 1.
The cranes form a perfect backdrop to the new ECA station in Pula, and both are a reminder of former glories coming good again. While the lighting project has revitalised Uljanik, the arrival of the seaplanes in Croatia is a repeat of a service which was very popular in the region some 80 years ago.
Visualia 2014 - the stage is set for a spectacular light show of the iconic cranes of Uljanik shipya...
Visualia 2014 - the stage is set for a spectacular light show of the iconic cranes of Uljanik shipyard which line the Pula sky.
Pula Tourist Board
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