…since I got my CPL in october.
Okay, the first week after my checkride in the Seneca I haven’t done very much. I just needed some days to relax. But at the end of my first week as FAA certified commercial pilot I did something I wanted to do for a long time: I took a ride in a seaplane. And not just a ride; I actually got trained for the multi-engine seaplane add-on for my CPL.
Training aircraft was this STOL Twinbee. Strange looking plane but flies pretty good. Bit heavy on the elevator control but you get used to it. Our first flight wasn’t very spectacular. We took off from one of the hard-surface runways in Flagler, departed to the west and did some airwork. Slow flight, stalls, steep turns, nothing fancy just getting used to the airplanes handling. Back in Flagler we did some touch ‘n’ go’s and practiced some taxiing because it was the first taildragger I’ve ever flown and taxiing around with a Twinbee is everything but easy. But it worked out fairly well so that the next flight could take us out to the lake.
Landing on the water is different but not necessarily more difficult than landing on a hard-surfaced runway (at least that’s how I feel about it). And to make my very first water landing even more challenging there was absolutely no wind that day and the water was like a mirror (so-called glassy water, which has the highest percentage of all seaplane accidents). Looks terrific but makes landing even more interesting. The problem with glassy water is you can’t judge your height above the water just from looking at it. You need a reference point and proper landing technique to touch down safely. But my instructor had decades of seaplane experience, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
There are other landing techniques for about any water condition someone could think of and the same goes for the take offs.
Additionally (because we were flying a multi-engine aircraft) I had to deal with one engine inoperative. No big difference to land planes there just using the same drills as for the land plane.
The next few days we just practiced take off and landing techniques for glassy water, rough water, and normal conditions; with both engines running and with one inop; idle taxi, step taxi and plow turns; and a cool thing called confined area take off. The advantage of seaplanes is that we don’t have to stick with prepared runways of certain dimensions. Rather we can take the whole lake or river if we need to and if the conditions permit. That allows us to take off in a circular arc if there is not enough space to take off straight ahead. It’s a lot of fun.
Then, after three od four days of training I had my checkride with Jon Brown, owner of the well-known Jack Brown’s Seaplane base and long-time friend of my instructor.
Checkride was no big problem and I enjoyed flying with a man whose name is known by virtually every seaplane pilot.
But that was not the last thing I did flying wise. So far I had only the multi-engine land and sea rating on my commercial. The single-engine rating was only good for my private pilot licence. So it was about time to change that. The next day after my seaplane cheride I started training for the SEL commercial add-on. Not a whole lot of things to do. Just a few new maneuvers I had to learn but nothing really complicated. It took me about four days to get them in and checkride wasn’t even one hour. Pretty easy after all the multi-engine flying. In consequence that left just one thing missing: the singl-engine seaplane rating.
It doesn quite make sense to get first the multi-engine seaplane rating and then go for the single-engine. But so far I could do everything in Flagler. Just for the SES rating I had to go somewhere else which made it easier to put that at the end.
For the SES rating I took the opportunity to do that at no other place than Jack Brown’s Seaplanebase.
They are the oldest and best known seaplane training facility in the United States so I had sort of no other choice than to train with them. And I don’t regret it at all.
They use old Piper J-3 Cub on Aqua 1500 straight floats for their training. The planes have no electric system what so ever. Only electricity on board is a little 9V battery for the intercom. And maybe the cell phone in your pocket. Everything else is mechanic. No electric instruments, no gyros, no GPS, no radios no generator and, most important, no starter!! That means you have to hand prop it (the instructors do that for you). Only instruments are a tachometer, two other engine instruments, airspeed indicator, altimeter and a magnetic compass. That’s it. That’s all you get, and that’s all you really need. It’s the pure joy of flying. The famous stick and rudder experience of a Piper Cub. Flying the Cub on float was the best experience I’ve ever had, it was heck of a lot of fun. I never understood what people meant when they were talking about the Cub. Now I know. Unfortunately, the course only includes 5 hours of training even though I would have loved to fly more. It’s been only three days since I had my checkride in it and I already miss the cute little yellow plane. That was the first but definitely not the last time I flew a Cub.
Because I already had the MES rating I wasn’t totally new to the principles of water flying (there are not that much differences between single and multi engine seaplanes. They all follow the same principles, just how you fly them is a bit different) and therefore I could enjoy the flying more than I could have if it would have been my first time in a seaplane.
To fly such a great plane and an icon of aviation history was truly the dessert after all the work (even though most of it was fun, it still was really hard work sometimes) I’ve done during the last five months.
Hope to get back there soon to get more time in that great aviation classic.