Nature & Wildlife

OWNERS MANUAL: WATER WINGS Story and Photos by Guy R Maher

OWNERS MANUAL: WATER WINGS Story and Photos by Guy R Maher E immediately to idle and full back pressure on the control wheel after splashdown yields a smooth deceleration of this plane now turned 28 Cessna
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OWNERS MANUAL: WATER WINGS Story and Photos by Guy R Maher E immediately to idle and full back pressure on the control wheel after splashdown yields a smooth deceleration of this plane now turned 28 Cessna Pilots Association soci ion July 2018 VanFleet s 172XP is equipped with Wipaire, Inc. s Wipline 2350 amphibious floats. 29 VanFleet s 172XP has a modified engine that increases the horsepower from 195 to 210. Samantha VanFleet, owner/operator of VanFleet Aviation based in Hickory, NC. VanFleet had been after me for months to experience Samantha came on a beautiful May morning in North Carolina. interesting story in of itself. - College, Columbia Missouri with an AA degree, VanFleet dietitian for Athens Regional Hospital. At last she was able to pursue her lifelong dream - to obtain her private Ross Abbott as a pharmaceutical representative, getting well-paying job also allowed VanFleet to advance in her pilot ratings. the administration and athletic departments. And she the resultant downturn in aviation, VanFleet s low to eventually be let go. 30 Cessna Pilots Association July 2018 Undaunted, VanFleet moved to Abington, VA to start Rosebud, that she purchased. And she still had the motor glider, too. afforded VanFleet the opportunity to make a fateful trip for several years she also spent her vacation time bought Samantha was accomplished in Rosebud Samantha. unthinkable happened. ripped through the Hickory Regional Airport. Rosebud, the major bread-winner for VanFleet Aviation was destroyed along with a number of other airplanes that shared the same hangar. However, Samantha - stored in another hangar - was spared of any harm. Because the Abington area wasn t very conducive to Samantha in Hickory, NC, located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains and steeped in beautiful locations to water-land the 2014 because of the local scenic beauty, the climate, the people, the professional service experience she was having at the Hickory Airport, and to live in the area VanFleet decided to base at the Hickory, NC Regional Airport in part due to their excellent FBO services. infectious laugh, a booming positive attitude, a true love for teaching and transfer skills to match, VanFleet is one of the best ambassadors General Aviation has in this area. And that goes double for the seaplane world. An October 2017 tornado destroyed VanFleet s Cessna 172 fixed gear trainer. The float plane was unharmed. Regardless, the effect was devastating to VanFleet s refurbishing, and ultimately placing the replacement 31 Blue Belle this community has for VanFleet was palpable and much larger than it actually is. Both Blue Belle and Samantha are representative of what we wish more of the legacy general aviation connectivity. But the six-pack still rules here. VanFleet is adamant that primary training should be on steam - Samantha climb and the landing gear tucked away, VanFleet had ground level. None of that higher altitude stuff today. Although there was suitable water nearby for landings, VanFleet had a different plan. We would follow a series of rivers for about 30 minutes that would twist and turn to do the water work. Not only would this get me used to the rudder intensive Samantha, but it would allow obstacles and hazards over, on, and under the surface how to pick the best landing areas. VanFleet, standing next to Blue Belle, the 172 that replaced the one lost in the tornado, and with her float XP, Samantha, in the background. meaning effortless. bursts of power while not riding the brakes and with lead times for control inputs measured in yards instead of feet pretty much is how it goes. We are always looking for wires, poles, towers and other killers in the landing area. But with beach revealed submerged logs and other hazards upon closer inspection. more to it than just watching the water surface something most of us have done at some time. Now you are also studying the water to determine the direction and strength of the water current. Remember, once you splash down, you are now a house boat with wings. VanFleet obviously knows her stuff and how to make learning fun. But she didn t make it easy on me. We me to evaluate the whole situation and decide where we should touch down and in what direction, where our abort point would be, and after take-off where we d go to earn her a dental degree. 32 Cessna Pilots Association July 2018 But her instruction was clear and precise and the small boat, VanFleet had me deploy the water rudders. across a lake but at the controls of a Cessna. the toe brakes are useless and this thing doesn t turn on from the water. But as much fun as the take-off was, landing is still the best. And VanFleet had me come around and set up for another downwind leg in preparation for the next BGUMPS as the trigger for preparation. Most of us perform the GUMP check before landing, so this isn t much different. Her acronym stands for Brakes, as, Undercarriage, Mixture, Prop, and S we are checking brakes in advance of a water landing. the landing gear are both contained in the same area in a soft pedal and potential problem, she doesn t know if something has damaged the area and possibly effected the landing gear mechanism too. Water taxiing is done at idle power to minimize prop erosion and increase the reaction time to observed hazards. and under the surface. And some of them are the human kind. An airplane slowly moving across a lake is an attractive target for the brain-dead idiots in boats or on But on this particular morning the on-lookers were content to keep a safe distance and we were soon in degrees, water rudders retracted, and the control wheel throttle. VanFleet instructed me to watch for two different times in the early take-off run where the plane will do a mechanisms. Additionally, if the plan is to taxi up onto a boat ramp after landing, good brakes are high-power setting to climb the ramp. but the way it should be, VanFleet aborts the water landing and heads to the nearest airport to land and investigate the problem. As she put to come out to do the same thing in the water is VanFleet adds the S for S check as a reminder to take one last look at the wind landing, this step is especially important when assessing your water landing conditions and how you are going to deal with a crosswind and resultant drift on the water. this landing was even more pleasing than the previous and doing them on the water just doubled down on location for me to shoot the photos that accompany this story, we didn t have the time for VanFleet to take me 33 through the simulated engine-out procedure. engine-out approach at about 100 feet above the water. However, she has her students take it all the way to the comes down in a hurry and you have to see what it engine. Breaking it off with power at 100 feet takes VanFleet promised me we d go out again to do some maneuver similar to helicopter autorotation training that amphib landing on the wheels. And yes, three times down gentle with Samantha and was rewarded in kind on the landing. instruction cost for amphibs is twice that of planes with becoming more in demand because getting fuel on the aircraft experience are coming to operators like VanFleet to get the training and log the time needed to be insurable for an amphib airplane they intend to purchase. And of course, the same holds true for those looking to work for an operator who has amphibs in they won t regret it. VanFleet s syllabus is very com- Landing on amphibious floats on the water is one of the few times pilots intentionally leave the wheels retracted. 34 Cessna Pilots Association July 2018 prehensive. And she has her own specially written training manual. throughout the manual to the sources that were engrained in VanFleet from her short tenure as an instructor at isn t just a word batted around like so many do. Rather, with VanFleet s program, it s integrated within her operational culture so that it s the right way, by a real pro. And that awesome experience resulted in just ATP/Commercial pilot and CFI for airplanes, helicopters, and instruments with over 17,000 hours all civilian general aviation. He operates the aviation services company he founded Lanier Media specializing in aircraft sales and acquisitions, productions, and litigation support. Maher is also an NAAA owns a 1973 Cessna 310Q. He can be contacted at Ask the Techs at
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