October 12, 2004
Thanks for persevering with me for my seaplane endorsement. Seawind in States asked me to write a piece, regarding instruction on Seawind, so I have copied you my reply.
This is a part of the answer to why I chose a Seawind and how I learnt to fly it…….
I have flown nearly all aircraft varieties, from DC3’s , DC9’s to 4 engine jets, turbo props, most piston twins and singles, Helicopters, float planes, aerobatic, home built all that and was looking for my next “rush”, not being a big fly in guy or $100 hamburger voyeur, my pilot wife and I decided to investigate the Seawind amphib. About the same time, Kevin Bowe foned me to arrange a flite in my Lancair for a builder mate of his. During the flite with John in the Lancair he told me he had built a Seawind, so I beat him back to NZ to accept his invitation of a flight in the Seawind. Within 3 months I had been to Canada, USA, inspected 6 Seawinds and bought one.
Now, the problem started, as the only Seawind I had flown was John’s in NZ, where he offered me a circuit, (which should have put me off buying one.)
I contacted Kevin and he wisely told me to teach myself to fly off land and he would convert me to water.
Kevin is one of Australia’s most highly regarded Seaplane pilots, he operated his own Barrier Reef charter business for over 30 years, employed hundreds of pilots, engineers and other pirates, convicts and buccaneers, has operated and owned Lake Buccaneers, Renegades, Beavers, Grumman Mallards, piston and turbine and plenty of boring planes on floats, we cannot get a more experienced nor likeable guy in Australia
The day of reckoning came, however Kevin had other ideas. We flew in one of my Lancairs, that is Kevin flew us, to Hecks field to start my endorsement on a LakeBuccaneer. Well, I thought I knew a fair bit about flying and about water, I live on a surfing beach, have surfed all my life, swim in the surf daily, owned tens of boats and other craft, flown over millions of miles over ocean, but that was NOTHING compared to what Kevin showed me and made me perform that day. Kevin did not say too much on our 4 minute flight to the Gold Coast Broadwater, he said he would show me the first water landing and all I had to do was do same… Easy…… We slid onto final between two hi rise condo’s, where I was more interested in looking up at the pretty girls sunbathing on balconies, then between 2 masts, quick turn to avoid an 80’ speedboat and an adjustment to avoid a wake, Kevin smoothly put the turbo normalized Lake onto the water like a pelican landing in a jacuzzi, he demonstrated a hi speed taxi, hi speed turns and abrupt stop, then said “Your turn!!”.
Well I could not find the throttle, or mixture or Prop RPM lever and the brakes would not hold plus we were turning and heading for a gin palace covered in girls and the window was open, there were speed boats roaring past, I distinctly remember looking at Kevin and saying “You gotta be kiddin”.
No he wasn’t, he raised my hand to the roof, to what felt like a fresh air vent lever, it was the throttle which he pushed forward, pulled the stick back into my guts, kicked the rudder , the aircraft lurched up, down, wing up then down, nose down then he said “Your aircraft!”, SHIT, surprisingly enough, when I finally got the courage to look out of the window, it all looked reasonably familiar, accelerating, noisy and when it was ready to fly, up she came, just like a plane??? Kevin got me to land straight ahead, some speed was mentioned, cut the power and at 3” above water do something else, amazingly it worked, how easy is this caper??
For the next 2 hours Kevin flogged me around the Broadwater, 500’ circuits, take off, land straight ahead, cross wind, down wind, glassy, rough, obstacles, I was hot, buggered and my mind was racing trying to keep up with the steep learning curve, I even had Kevin fly the aircraft in the pattern so I could relax a bit, have a drink ready to attack the next marine challenge.
Kevin finally let me get to the beach while he refueled and he ate a Café le Monde Turkey and cranberry sauce baguette with cream cheese and other stuff, I found a coconut tree and instantly started snoring as I curled up under the cool fronds. It seemed like 2 minutes, but an hour later Kevin found me and said lets continue the fun.
Of course Kevin was waiting for the wind to come up and really spoil the notion that I had mastered X-wind landings on to narrow mangrove lined channels.
The wind and chop and boat traffic mixed with a spring low tide raised the bar again and the old salt in the rite seat just kept bringing them out……
Kevin would induce a bounce, engine out, hydraulics out, trim run away, flaps up, flaps asymmetry, flaps half, gear down, elec fail, salty windscreen, seat fail, ASI out, all manner of “Emergencies” that are everyday happenings, to a floating hull pilot of 35 years and tens of thousands of water landings he must have seen it all and I am lapping up this experience as if plugged in by a jumper lead, (Booster cable)…
Water is roughly 590 times more dense than air, snow is about 250 times more dense than air and the Eskimos have 250 words for snow (as in heavy, wet, dry, all that), well how many words can you imagine you would need to describe sea conditions and I am talking of just one bloody DAY… I am reasonably relaxed and comfortable flying a Plane, but from within 2’ of water you are a boat, a very fast boat that weighs a ton and is 2’ above the water which is trying very hard to repel you back to where you came from, if your attitude is not JUST rite (aircraft attitude AND Mental attitude), then the water will poke its tongue at you for not treating it with respect. The more tired I got, the more sloppy was my attitude and the lessons really came on thick and fast, you need to find out this lesson for yourself.
I remembered the plaque that was presented to me when I got my commercial pilots license at 18, by Sir Donald Anderson, the Director General of our equivalent to your FAA, “The air, like the sea is not inherently dangerous, but terribly unforgiving of any foolishness”………
The day to fly the Seawind off water arrives: It is blowing 15 – 20 Kts South East, the usually calm saltwater LakeCootharaba, looks angry, it is shallow and any chop is short pitched and steep.
Kevin got me to try a flap 30 for our first attempt, well I remember hitting the water, then the visuals were, sky, water, sky, water, water, sky, water until eventually the amplitudes diminished and we realized we were in 3’ of chop and water going straight over the canopy, time to depart, I wanted to beach it and swim home, but to Kevin, no big deal, the take off was fairly wild, I remember lots of splashing like a submarine surfacing, heaps of big bangs as we jumped from wave top to top, wing dropping and no way of getting it back, weather cocking and a very long take off run, when FINALLY airborne and I took my first breath, I said “lets bug out”, Kevin said NO way, the fun has only just begun.
Kevin probably realized that if I had retreated, I probably would never have tried a water landing in Seawind again. Only because of Kevin’s vast experience and confidence in the Seawind, we started to learn the configuration and technique to tame a Seawind. I thought my 1 day endorsement in the Lake was all I needed, but after 6 days training with Kevin in Seawind, he finally told me to go practice on my own. I think I foned Kevin at any opportunity to come flying with me, but he always politely excused himself and encouraged me to go it alone. I now have over 300 hours on my Seawind, have flown it to Norfolk island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Lord Howe island, New Guinea, Tasmania, Indonesia and over 500 water landings AND I still get butterflies before another water mission, but I absolutely love it…….
So, after only 3 hours and 80 or so water landings in that sweat box Lake with Kevin Bowe and 6 days and countless water landings in my Seawind with Kevin, I finally, after 34 years of flying realized what the line on that plaque meant……IT MEANS be bloody careful with seaplanes and get REALLY good instruction by a very experienced pilot/seaman.
Then you will fall in love with this magical world and no landing charge endless miles of runways. I am proud to belong to a very exclusive club, look at population of Australia, 20 million, 50,000 of which have Pilots licenses, 5% of which have float plane endorsements and only 5% of them have Floating Hull endorsements.
Come join our club!!!!!
Thanks again, Kevin.
Perry Taylor NOOSA
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