Operational Tips For The Lake Amphibian – Part 5 of 10
Guest Editorial Series by John Staber – Beaching. Be prepared. Seat belt off, paddle within reach, and a line tied to the cleat on the nose. If you are not sure of the condition of the beach, approach at idle with the wheels down and shut the engine down about 30 feet from shore allowing the plane to drift in until the wheels touch the bottom. If it is a nice sandy beach, retract the gear with the existing hydraulic pressure and paddle in until the keel touches. All can be done from the pilot’s seat with the entry hatch open.
Make sure all switches are off, and step out with your line in hand. Always attach a line to the Lake when you hop out or dive out. With any amount of wind or current the Lake will drift faster than you can swim (I know of someone who went to his final water landing in the sky doing that), and if beached, will be lighter and float higher once you have gotten out. Always wear beach sandals to prevent sharp rocks and beer bottle shards from impaling you. There are conditions when you might want to leave the gear down. If there are boat wakes in the area it is better to have the gear rather than the unprotected hull absorb the shock of hitting bottom as the plane floats higher and lower.
You might want to taxi completely out of the water if you have room and the surface is hard enough. Always check conditions first before attempting this. Beware of unseen rocks and sharp drop-offs or holes underwater. Having determined that it is safe, taxi back out, put the wheels down, water rudder up, and drive the Lake onto the beach with full up elevator, using just enough power to keep moving, and execute a 180 degree turn which points you back at the water. If you are going to get stuck at least you will be pointing in the right direction. Now get your picnic basket out and enjoy!
Upon boarding for departure get rid of any excess sand on your feet, fire up, and taxi slowly back into the water, making sure you are not turning when the aircraft starts to float (this prevents nose-wheel shimmy when arriving on land). When afloat, gear up, water rudder down and stow loose lines and equipment and seat belt on. If you should happen to run aground on a sand bar, retract the water rudder and use full air rudder and power to pivot the plane on its step 180 degrees. Add more power and blast off into known deeper water.
Getting stuck. Not fun. It generally happens when the wheels sink into the sand during wave action or the surface is simply too soft. The paddle makes an excellent shovel. The nose-down thrust exacerbates the situation. Hopefully, there might be a flat piece of wood along the shoreline to place under the nose-wheel to give a bigger footprint. A frisbee is handy and is light enough to carry on board. Bystanders come in handy also providing they have been instructed where, and where not, to push. A couple of strong backs pushing up on the wing spar helps. A last resort measure, is retracting the gear and sliding the Lake back into the water on its belly.
The hydraulic operation of the landing gear is a big asset in this situation. By lifting the nose, that gear will come up. Don’t get your fingers pinched in the nose doors. If you have help, lift a wing and that gear will come up and the fuselage will then slide towards the remaining gear as it retracts inward. If you are in the water, but stuck, slide out a wing on your “bum” which will lighten up the other wing and that gear will usually retract. Once one retracts, the other will be soon to follow. Fun, eh? Beware of tidal water. Lets venture into Docking in Part 6 of 10 next Wednesday.
Text and pictures courtesy and copyright of John Staber, Owner of Colonial Skimmer SN #1; John has flown and worked on Colonial Skimmers since 1964 and has accumulated more than 5000 hours in all different makes and models. In 2011 he published a book on the restoration of N6595K which can be purchased on his website. If you are interested to learn more about Skimmers and Lake Amphibian Aircraft, there will be one new article per week, dealing with a new topic.