Posts Tagged ‘floatplane’

Surprises all around

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about flying with different instructors. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

glacierYou have spent months planning, days hiking. Your tents are pitched on a finger of land that sticks out into Bench Lake in the wilderness on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Suddenly a floatplane lands on the water and comes to a stop in the middle of the small lake you had thought your own. The plane taxis to the end of the lake to again face into the wind and takes off. You stand with others in your group wondering, as you always will, why did that plane land here? What was that all about?

Watching the airplane fly off into the distance, you see it even more mysteriously take a turn in the air. Is it wildlife? Unknown to you, the airplane circled around a snowmobile abandoned in this wilderness.

This introduction to floatplane flying by a new, young CFI certainly had its moments for both me and life on the ground. The bear we circled was as surprised as the people. My sense is that a more experienced CFI would not have caught such attention from both the wild and people life. And while he never scared me exactly, flying close to the mountains to catch the updrafts for flight caused me to not take the controls as much as I might. In the end, I controlled the flaps and the water rudder because, in the Super Cub, he could not reach them anyway. The bottom line: Did I have fun? he asked after we returned to the dock. Oh yes.

tailnumberThe views were awesome. Could I say anything but “Wow!” asked the pilot in the other airplane that held most of my family. We took off and landed together on Trail Lake; I circled Paradise Valley while my family flew over the Harding Ice Field in a bigger, faster airplane.

Alaska will never be the same for me now that I have seen the backcountry, which makes up most of Alaska anyway, from the air. So many lakes, almost always a place to land—or maybe “land” is not the correct word, when you finish up on water.

My family and I have a lively conversation the night before about how a floatplane pilot gets to the dock. Carefully, and with experience, I find out. My CFI is embarrassed when our airplane goes quiet and still several feet from the dock. Only the presence of someone who could throw him a rope saves us from other ways to make that dock.

His mentor, the 75-year-old pilot who took my family up, stands just a tad mortified as the airplane is pulled into place.

bench lake with tentsI don’t mind. I was along for the ride and scenery anyway. And I did learn a bit about floatplanes. My first pleasure was the water taxiing (no yellow line to nail) and the views, especially the images of the other airplane carrying my family were incredible. Our hour in the sky was well worth our weeks of planning, days of travelling, and getting seven people up and out on schedule for our flights. The Alaska weather cooperated. No rain and the clouds rested at about 5,000 feet. The group on the Cessna 206 sometimes seemed a tad squeezed between the Harding Icefield and the clouds. Our smaller airplane played in the hidden valleys and did a practice land and takeoff for those surprised hikers. They wonder why we landed. I wonder if I will ever get in a floatplane again. Mysteries.—Jean Moule

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Alaska calling

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The June issue of Flight Training, going to press this week, Juneauis full of great content about the great state of Alaska. Pilots can’t get enough about Alaska (and can’t stop dreaming about going there, flying there, living there, or working there). Maybe it’s because general aviation is so entrenched in the state because there’s almost no other means of transportation for many communities. Maybe it’s the allure of the bush-pilot lifestyle, whatever that may be. Maybe it’s the endless possibilities of where you can land: water, snow, a glacier, gravel. I don’t know; you tell me what it is in the Comments section.

But anyway, as I was saying—Alaska! The photo you see is one I took from the left seat of a modified Cessna 150 in June 2008, somewhere near Juneau. I was midway through a weeklong cruise from Seattle, and I knew that the 12 hours our cruise ship was docked at Juneau was the only window I’d have to do some affordable flying. (Much as I wanted to do a glacier flight, that wasn’t in the budget. But if you can afford one, do it and tell me how it went.)  So I went on the Internet, found a flight instructor, called him from Maryland, and scheduled some dual. Two weeks later, he picked me up in downtown Juneau, drove me to the airport, and I had the most memorable 1.3 hours of flying of my life at that point.

The scenery was spectacular. The flight instructor pointed out several little sand bars and gravel strips. We overflew a 1,900-foot gravel strip that from 200 feet looked like a dirt path made by a couple of four-wheelers. For $168, I considered my flight a bargain.

Editor Ian J. Twombly has fond memories of Alaska, too. It’s where he got his seaplane rating–an experience he describes in this 2005 article (see the sidebar, but read all of Katie Writer’s discussion of what’s involved in becoming a bush pilot).

Do you have Alaska dreams? Better yet, do you have Alaska memories? If so, share them in the Comments section. The June issue of Flight Training starts shipping to homes on April 4; digital subscribers will see it a on March 28.—Jill W. Tallman

 

Photo of the Day: Greenville, Maine, Splash-In

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

A Cessna 172 taxies past as an Antilles G21G Super Goose lands in the background at Moosehead Lake.

We can’t resist a beautiful photo of a floatplane, and the Seaplane Splash-in at Greenville, Maine, provides some of the best spotting opportunities on the East Coast. This photo is from the 35th annual Splash-In, held in 2008.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Beriev Be-103

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Some airplanes turn heads on the ramp. This one undoubtedly makes all the boaters’ heads swivel–even those who are accustomed to seeing Piper Cubs on floats. The Beriev Be-103 is a light ampibian aircraft that hails from Russia. Some Facebook commenters expressed confusion about the placement of the wings, which are close to the water. Barry Schiff, who flew the airplane for AOPA Pilot magazine, says it performs and handles extraordinarily well on water. Those wings displace water to help keep the airplane float and take maximum advantage of ground effect during takeoff and landing–no flaps needed. Read more in Barry’s pilot report in the October 2004 AOPA Pilot.