better way to view the Seaplane Base than from above. Photo by
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
“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
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
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
DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3;
2015: July 27-Aug. 2