Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Annual seaplane splash-in provides fun for pilots, viewers alike

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A seaplane about to set down on Clearlake during the second day of the 30th annual Clear Lake Splash-In in Lakeport on Saturday, September 26, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.

 



LAKEPORT – Even though the lake level was low this year due to the third year of drought plaguing all of California, spirits were high at the 30th annual Clear Lake Splash-In in Lakeport on Saturday, the largest gathering of seaplanes west of the Mississippi River, which is held annually on Clear Lake.


“By all measures, the event is once again a success,” said Chuck Kimes, organizer of the annual event, which brings dozens of seaplanes and land planes to Lake County for a few days of education, fun and aerial competition.


Workshops for pilots included International Flight planning for seaplanes, seaplanes and invasive species, and exhibitions from NorCal Aviation, Sierra Seaplanes, Big Foot Air LLC, Solo Flight School and Wipaire.


But what the public comes to see are the competitions – aerial feats of grace that include spot-landing and water-bombing contests, the latter involving pilots dropping a floating plastic jug and trying to hit a target in the water, as well as the Grand Flying Parade of Seaplanes.


The heyday of seaplanes – also referred to as float planes or amphibious planes – was in the 1930s and 1940s. That was when Clear Lake was a stopover point for seaplanes after the 17-hour flight from Hawaii during World War II, when San Francisco was fogged in.


In the 1930s, seaplanes also were tried out as a way to get visitors to and from Lake County, but the idea never really “took off.”


Seaplanes at the event on Saturday ranged in age from the 1940s to the new 2009 Gweduck (pronounced gooey-duck, and named after a clam). The Gweduck is an experimental twin-engine flying boat-style seaplane of composite construction instead of metal that is reminiscent of the Grumman-style planes.


The planes also had a value range that went from $25,000 to more than $1 million – a none-too-cheap labor of love. Most seaplanes hold two to four passengers and are constructed from fabric, fiberglass or metal. Ultra-lights with floats also participated in the event.


Pilots from as far away as Washington, Arizona and Nevada participated in Saturday’s splash-in, with more than 30 arriving in seaplanes, and more than 20 in land planes.


“This is a unique site for the Clear Lake Splash-In,” said Mike Dunlap, the local splash-in contact, of the grounds at Natural High School, explaining that it’s very accessible to both the pilots and the visitors, with amenities close by.


Dunlap explained that the Clear Lake Splash-In is great for the local economy. A survey they did last year found that the registered participants in the three-day event put more than $80,000 in to the local economy.


The owner of the only dedicated seaplane ramp on Clear Lake, Dunlap was in his element on Saturday and eager to speak with visitors about the beauty, history and mechanics of seaplanes – as well as the volunteer opportunities for residents.


“In the upcoming years,” Dunlap said, “we’re hoping for more local involvement in the event,” including food and beverage vendors and more.


For information about volunteer and vendor opportunities for the next three years’ Splash-In, (Sept. 24-26, 2010; Sept. 23-25, 2011; Sept. 28-30, 2012; and Sept. 27-29, 2013 ), contact Dunlap at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 877-828-2286.


Check out videos of the day at Lake County News' YouTube Channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/LakeCoNews .


E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

 

 

 

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Planes came and went throughout the day on the Helen L. Roe memorial seaplane ramp in Lakeport on Saturday, September 26, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.

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