Sunday, 26 May 2024

A celebration of the seaplane

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Late on Saturday afternoon, Rick Grant's 1956 Grumman Albatross flies low and slow past Clear Lake's western shores on his way to home base in Santa Rosa on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. The huge twin engine aircraft carries a 96-foot wing and burns 110 gallons of aircraft fuel per hour. Two other Albatross had splashed in Saturday for a short stay. Both aircraft had departed by 1 p.m. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 



LAKEPORT – Many people call them seaplanes. Others refer to them as float planes.


Call 'em planes on floats if you wish. Break them down further and you find floatplanes and amphibious planes. One type lives on the water and in the air. The other can call the good earth home as well.


Throughout the weekend the waters and air space around Clear Lake and specifically that which is just offshore of downtown Lakeport were the temporary home to about 30 of the above-mentioned type of aircraft for the 29th annual Clear Lake Splash-in.


Ranging in size and style, from small ultra-light single- and two-seat aircraft on up to the very large 20-passenger, 68-foot-long, 97-foot wingspan behemoths of the 1940s, they all have one thing in common – well, two for that matter.


First, they all fly and, large or small, they all take flight from, and return to, water.


Splash-in coordinator and seaplane pilot Chuck Kimes said 35 pilots and owners had completed the registration process – including the quagga mussel certification required by all boat owners and operators on Clear Lake – in order to take part in the festival. Of those, 30 planes came for the event.


Kimes expected that the total number of aircraft participating will increase. Last year's event was hampered by an unexpected change in the weather. Then, many of the larger aircraft canceled just hours before their expected arrival due to poor weather conditions.


Returning for his third splash-in, co-owner Randy Fiorini and pilot Rob Davids of Turlock brought their twin engine 1959 Piper Apache.


The aircraft was completely restored four years ago. The four-seat airplane has been given all new avionics, new engines and sports new paint in the original design with the same factory colors. Sierra Seaplanes primarily use tail number 34DA for multi-engine seaplane training in San Andreas County. It is believed that this is the only Piper Apache on floats anywhere in the world.


One of the larger aircraft returning was the 1964 Grumman Widgeon owned and piloted by Todd Dickey. Based in Arizona, Dickey's plane can carry 10 passengers and a large compliment of gear.


Still larger are the Mallards. John Fuller from Los Gatos brought his 48-foot-long twin engine 1946 Grumman amphibian with its 66-foot wingspan into Lakeport.


The smaller Grumman aircraft have wingspans that allow the planes to ramp out at the Natural High ball field.


The Mallards, the Grumman Goose and their big brother the Albatross have wingspans that prohibit these planes from exiting the water at the narrow confines of downtown Lakeport. They could, however, at Lampson Field for service and refueling.


It was a treat to see a Grumman Albatross in action. The huge flying boats measure just over 60 feet long with a wingspan of 97 feet, and are powered by a pair of 1,460 horsepower radial engines. They can carry 12,000 pounds of cargo at just over 200 miles per hour, for up to 2,800 miles before refueling.

 

 

 

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A trio of Republic SeaBees including the Corvette-powered Tahoe Special (right) owned and flown by Steve Lantz of Carson City, Neva., fly in formation during the Seaplane Grand Parade on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 


The planes began service in 1947, and just a couple of hundred at most still survive with many owned by private parties. Many have interiors outfitted, as would be the finest oceangoing yachts. A load of fuel cost roughly $6,000; the two huge radial engines burn 110 gallons an hour between them.


Besides the Albatross, there were plenty of aircraft to admire.


Steve Lantz flew in from Carson City, Nev., with his beautifully restored Corvette-powered Republic SeaBee.


Ray “I wear a kilt to stay comfortable” Arceneaux flew his turbo charged Cessna 185 Skywagon for an unprecedented fifth splash-in in a row. Arceneaux also frequents the Burning Man event on the Nevada desert, providing thrills for those not expecting a seaplane on the desert floor.


Seaplane rides also were offered for a fee, besides the festival that took place in Library Park on Saturday.


The festival ran Saturday, with most of the planes taking to the skies and heading to their respective homes on Sunday.


E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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As expected Todd Dickey flew his 1964 Grumman Widgeon from Deer Valley, Ariz. Dickey and his guests left Lakeport at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008, for their return flight to the Phoenix area. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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Yellow was a popular color at this year's Clear Lake Splash-In, held Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. Tom Binsfield's brightly colored SeaRay stood out because of its color and cool design. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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Pilot Brandon Wilcox of Bend, Ore., takes a young passenger out for a spin in his Cub Crafters seaplane during the Clear Lake Splash-In, held Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 


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