4/14: A busy day

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lakeathon IV! (Saturday...a busy day)

Lakeathon 2007
Table of Contents

4/10: Welcome to Lakeathon 07
4/11: About your correspondent
4/11: Trip from Chicago
4/12: Getting water wings
4/12: Early arrivals
4/13: Lakeathon Day 1
4/13-14: Aerial blogging
4/14: A busy day
4/15: Whoosh...
4/15: "Take the day off..."
4/16: Last day of Lakeathon
4/16: Lakeathon wrap-up
P.S. #1: Sun 'n Fun
P.S. #2: SnF Splash-in
P.S. #3: My sweetie...
P.S. #4: The trip home

Woke up this morning early enough to put together a little Powerpoint presentation on the new website, then headed to the morning seminars in the ballroom.

I missed the beginning of Ken Lindsay's talk on the Seawings program, but it sounds like a water-borne version of the FAA's Wings program, where seminars and recurrent training can substitute for a biennial flight review. I believe I understand that the seminars here at Lakeathon can count toward the program, as can any recurrent training under the Airsure Lake insurance program (see below.) Sounds worthwhile...

After Ken, (I think it was) Laura Beecher, Tammy Clark, and Steve ? from Airsure Insurance gave an interesting talk about the Airsure Lake insurance program. They had a number of interesting stats. The ones that caught my eye were:

  • # of Lakes registered in U.S.: 572
  • # in Airsure's insurance program: 142 (24.8%)
  • Lake "incidents" in the last 10 year period:
    • 44 incidents (19 mechanical, 25 pilot error)
    • 14% of the incidents were to aircraft in the Airsure program
  • Lake "accidents" (more serious) in the last 10 year period:
    • 47 accidents (11 mechanical, 33 pilot error, 3 "other")
    • 8% in the Airsure program, 92% out of program.

Their point was that participants in the program are much safer--on average--than those not participating, and the reason, they postulate (logically, in my opinion) is the recurrent training requirement. As a result, participants also benefit with lower premiums. They gave an example of a "typical" pilot, 1,700 hours, $175,000 Lake LA-250, $1,000,000 overall, $100,000 per passenger (I missed the rest of the parameters): Avemco: $8,292 per year AIG: No longer writing new policies on Lakes (past rates: '05: $4,900 '06: $7,600) Airsure: $4,391

Even with the lower premiums, over the 17-year history of the program, they have collected about $8 million in premiums, and paid out only $3.7 million in losses, or about 46%, a relatively low rate. Although they made the point that it would only take a few large claims to throw this off, they are pleased with the program. I know I certainly am. As a low-timer, when I first called to compare rates, I was quoted over $10,000 on an $81,000 aircraft from Avemco.  I think I'm paying a little over $5,000 with Airsure, and that'll drop some as soon as I hit 50 hours in type (maybe this week.)

After the Airsure presentation, we were treated to a slide show of the winners of the 2007 "Capture the Spirit" photo contest, by Jim Campbell of The Lake Connection (

Once again, I am blown away by the beauty of the photos in this annual contest. It is through Jim's largess and the talent of the contest photographers that the LAFC web site has so many excellent images of Lake aircraft in beautiful settings. Jim was assisted in presenting the prizes by the lovely and talented newest member of the seaplane pilot fraternity (sorority?), Jamie Schoepflin. Jamie just received her Single Engine Seaplane rating last Thursday (in a Lake, of course.) Congratulations, Jamie, from all of us. (And now I don't have to be the newest newbie on the block any more!)

Next up was a short presentation by Nick Ryder on his new publication: "The Confident Blue Water Pilot--A Practical Guide, Corrosion Control & General Lubrication" designed to educate those who operate Lakes in salt water.

The presentation was very good, and the booklet, tho' short, is well worth the $35 special Lakeathon price he's asking. Since we're contemplating a splash into the Caribbean next week, I ponied up, and I'm glad I did. It's chock full of information, has excellent pre- and post-salt exposure checklists, and is laminated so you can use it "live" as it were. I asked him for his contact info so those who missed him here at Lakeathon can get a copy (normally $49): Nick Ryder, Lucky Duck Aviation Services, LLC, 770-314-4431, (My favorite part of the book is the photo of the swimsuit-clad beauty on the tiny Caribbean sandbar saying "Poor me...I was hoping some big, strong, handsome Lake Amphibian pilot would come rescue me from this dreary life of sun, sand, endless parties, and those fruity drinks with the little umbrellas in them that make tipsy.")

Click here for a link to audio of Nick's presentation.

After Nick spoke, we got the highlight of the morning, in my opinion. Harry Shannon of Amphibians Plus at Bartow spoke for about an hour and a quarter. The first portion was on topics of general interest, and the latter was a Q&A.

Some of the tidbits:

  1. Flotation devices--Use 'em. All the time. They do no good in the baggage compartment as the cockpit is filling with water. (He wore his suspender-type PFD during the entire talk. It impressed me so much that I stopped later in the day and bought 2 similar ones for our own use; much less bulky than many other types of vests.)
  2. Medical certificates and how to be your own advocate with your physician to make sure you give the FAA what they need to keep you in the air.
  3. The "hands-on" maintenance sessions he's planning for Monday at his shop at BOW. They'll include: Tool kits; brake bleeding; and canopy reshaping. (Our Buc needs this.)
  4. Parts availability: What parts are becoming scarce (spar caps, for one.)
  5. Hand propping a Lake.

Here are my notes on hand propping. Do NOT take this as gospel or attempt to do this just on the basis of my notes--I could have missed something important. Talk to Harry or another Lake expert before you try this. It's important to know in case you're stuck in "Lake Faraway" as he called it, with a dead battery or shot starter. (The latter happened to me last fall, tho' at an airport where I was eventually able to get it replaced.):

  1. Have a TRUSTWORTHY pilot in the cockpit to manage the controls.
  2. Start on only the "impulse magneto". Verify which this is BEFORE you need to know. (There was a long discussion about this, and frankly, I'm still not sure which is the correct one.)
  3. Know your priming situation (cold start, hot start, or flooded start); consider waiting several hours to be able to use a cold start procedure.
  4. Learn NOW the best combination of settings to get your engine started with minimum cranking.
  5. Know the throttle position for ~1,000 RPM to avoid an overspeed on starting. (This could be disastrous, perched on the wing as the plane lurches forward at full roar.)
  6. Use a glove on your right hand.
  7. Kneel or crouch on the left wing facing rearwards.
  8. Grasp the front of the cowling firmly with your left hand.
  9. Find a well-balanced position, where--as you swing the prop down--your momentum will carry you toward the nose of the plane and away from the prop arc.
  10. Swing the prop through the "click" of the magneto and the compression of the cylinder.
  11. Do not attempt to swing the prop too quickly. A modest speed will be enough if it's at the right part of the cycle. A well-managed engine can be started with just a few pulls-through.
  12. If the battery is completely dead and will not pump fuel for priming, a more radical technique is to remove a plug from each cylinder so the prop will freewheel, and spin it enough for the mechanical pump to prime the engine, then replace the plugs. (This is way more than I ever want to have to attempt.)

I'd add my own advice: wear slip-resistant shoes!

Click here for a link to audio of Harry's presentation.

The final presentation of the morning was your truly's about the new website. I won't bore you by trying to write the whole thing down. Instead, I'll bore you with an audio recording of it, and a link to the Powerpoint presentation I gave.

Click here for the Powerpoint.
Click here for the audio.

After my talk, I received a wonderful surprise. Marc Rodstein called me up again to present me with an Appreciation Award, and the present of a new digital outside air temp thermometer. I don't know how he knew I needed one, but I was planning to look for one at Sun 'n Fun this week. I'll also say that I've never seen such a fancy box for an aviation part in my life! Thank you so much, Marc. It's an honor to be able to put together the site for such a great community of flyers.

After the seminars, it was time for some fun. I made a stop at West Marine to get a couple of the suspender-type flotation collars, then headed to Bartow. I spent some time futzing with the airplane (installing the new OAT gauge, of course, plus other little stuff.) While at the airport, I finally got a look at Pete "Puddle Jumper" Hartmann's plane...NOW I get what all the hoopla on the forum is about:

When all was ship-shape with 12 Delta, I took off for some more water practice.

Over at Lake Mattie, I met up with Myron Mitchell and John O'Keefe in N84PF (see prior posting for photo of them photographing me.) They were kind enough to take some shots of me practicing, in the air and on the water. Here's my favorite: (No it's not a bounce, it's an on-purpose skid to a stop...honest!):

Afterwards, we headed together over to Lake Shipp and the Harbor Side restaurant (see earlier post) for iced tea and deep-fried pickles. (Pretty good; better than I expected. Wait for them to cool off, first.) They were kind enough to beach before me and then ask the owners of the wakeboard boat on the beach to reposition enough for me to beach beside them.

We bought the wakeboarders a round for their trouble, and afterward compared notes on vehicles. I was amazed: their boat has something like 325 HP. We told them it would make a nice seaplane if it had wings. When we returned to BOW, I ran into Travis Marlatte, a fellow Lake pilot from the Chicago area. Travis was partially responsible for getting me and Barb into a Lake...he bought his about 4 years ago, and told me a lot about the brand when I was trying to make up my mind what to buy. Travis invited me to dinner at the nearby Outback Steakhouse with Paul and Paula Furnée, Tom Frist, Bill Mistele (I hope I spelled that right) and Bob Brammer. I heard some amazing stories, including one about an impossible-to-access cave up a fjord in Oman that Paul visited by Lake Renegade. From his description, it sounded like there was no other way in the world to access it except by amphibious seaplane, and he and his companion may have been the first humans ever to see inside it. Amazing! (And, of course, he didn't have his camera with him.)

Small world: The last encounter of the night was back at the Holiday Inn bar, where I ran into Curt Martin from White Lake, MI. Curt recognized me from Meigs Field in around 1998, when the annual Michigan Air Tour added a special stop at Meigs to show solidarity for keeping the airport open.

Curt flies an IFR Murphy Rebel on amphibs that he built himself. What's amazing is that he and his wife just happened to stop in Winter Haven on a trip down the east coast, just happened to stay at THIS Holiday Inn, and just happened to be hanging out at the bar when I stopped in to download the photos from John O'Keefe. Talk about a small world!

I invited him to join the Lakeathon activities, but they're already programmed. Anyway, it was fun to see another water flyer here, even if he doesn't taxi with his butt below the waterline.

Weather for tomorrow looks challenging: Scattered t-storms in the AM, followed by 20 kt SW winds in the afternoon. If all goes well, I'll finally get to try some whitecap work in with Paul Furnée.

Stay tuned.

PS -- Thanks to all for the nice comments about the website and the blog. I'm really enjoying it. I'm missing Barb a lot, but doing this stuff is keeping me busy and my mind off being a little lonesome. She comes down Thursday!

PPS to Kathy Duda: This guy said he was looking for you...I dunno, looks a little shady to me...


James said...

Steve, Great job on keeping us posted on all the activities.....nice of you to take time for this. Wish I could attend this year but attended the last 2 years. Stop at KBMG (Bloomington, IN) Cook Aviation on your return to Chicago...our Avgas is $3.22.

Jim Thomas -Lake N1040L

April 15, 2007 10:49 AM

Steve said...

Thanks, Jim. Believe it or not, Barb and I are already planning a stop at BMG on our return from Savannah, GA, probably Sat. 4/28. We're N8012D, and probably won't get there 'til late afternoon, depending on wind, weather, etc.

Steve Whitney

April 15, 2007 5:31 PM

Anonymous said...

Steve, Many thanks for all your effort with the blogs. If you ever get out to the Seattle area look us up. Have fun, George Johnson N1VJ

April 17, 2007 1:36 PM

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