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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedWater flying makes big splash with a neophyte

There’s no better way to view the Seaplane Base than from above. Photo by Meghan Plummer

At the EAA Seaplane Base, things work a little differently: schedules aren’t so rigid, and pilots can fly their seaplanes when they want since they aren’t under the rigid rules of the airport. Also, the people want nothing more than to share their love of seaplane flying—a quality they exhibited within 15 minutes of arrival at the base.

After meeting Paul Seehafer, chairman of the EAA Seaplane Base, it wasn’t long before he offered up an opportunity: “We’re taking that Kodiak up in a little while,” he said.

“Want to come?”

The quick offer came as a shock, and my face certainly showed it. Stressing that a flight wasn’t expected, all he could say was, “That’s how the Seaplane Base works!”

Here’s the thing you should know about me: I’ve never been in a small aircraft.

Sure, I’ve flown in a commercial jet, but Ann Seehafer, Paul’s wife and vice chairman of the base, was quick to explain that flying in a small airplane was nothing like that big-iron experience.

Infectious enthusiasm
Being around so many aviation enthusiasts, it was impossible not to see the passion that comes with flight.

Now it was my turn to take part.

Less than 20 minutes later, they had me climbing into N493KQ, a 2008 Quest Kodiak on amphibious floats. My nerves must have been getting to me: When strapping on my seat belt, I pulled it so tight I could hardly move.

Looking up into the cockpit, the sight of a bobbing monkey figure—complete with grass skirt and ukulele—made me start to feel a little better.
Ann pointed out that she had never seen our pilot, Mike, wearing sandals, only cowboy boots. “A good seaplane pilot never gets his feet wet,” Paul said.

A small boat taxied the Kodiak through the water, pulling us farther and farther from the shore; there was no turning back now.

As we taxied Mike told us which door we should use in case of an emergency and pointed out the life jackets in the back of the plane. Hope my face didn’t turn as pale as it felt.

Water-flying basics
Earlier, Paul explained that seaplanes use almost twice as much horsepower to take off than aircraft taking off from land. Paul asked Mike if he thought we would be okay to take off with five people on board; Mike responded with, “I think we’ll be okay.”

Think? Did I just get twice as pale?

We circled in the water while the engine warmed up; a large crowd gathered on the shore to watch us take off. When the engine was ready, we started to pick up speed, heading straight away from the shore.

It felt just like a speedboat: We sped across the water, creating plenty of wake behind us, and suddenly, without me even realizing it, we were flying.

The boats on the water below us looked like toys, and I watched from above as a flock of birds flew in a V-formation across the water.

Beyond the lake, the world was vibrant green as far as the eye could see; people say that Wisconsin is beautiful to fly over during the summer, and it definitely rang true.

My eyes were glued out the window as I tried to soak it all in. Mike turned and asked if I was okay, and all I could do was give him a thumbs-up and smile.

A ride too soon ended
After circling the lake, Mike turned sharply in preparation for landing, instantly making me dizzy.

I had no idea if flying would make me sick, but these new friends would find out the exact moment I would. I finally found the horizon and my stomach settled, thankfully.

People flocked to the shore as we came in for landing, all with cameras covering their faces. We splashed into the water, then slowed quickly as we were cleared for Dock 5.

“So who wants a Kodiak?” Mike asked.

Ann’s hand shot into the air, and Paul decided they need two.

After pulling up to the dock, I stepped off the plane and realized that it felt strange to walk on solid ground again.

Walking to the bus to get back to the EAA AirVenture grounds, I had only one thing in my mind: When can I go up again?

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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