Lake Amphibian Operational Tips – Part 9/10

Lake Amphibian Operational Tips – Part 9/10

Written by John Staber: The Airport Arrival. Upon entering the traffic pattern adjust the throttle to 20 inches of manifold pressure and put the flaps down (same as for a water landing), and trim the aircraft. Now place the landing gear handle in the down position and visually watch all three gear come down, check the light on the panel and make sure the hydraulic pressure is building back up. At this point announce to all that “this is a land landing, the wheels are down!” and visually check again. From this point on the arrival is the same as the water landing, bearing in mind the drag of the long gear legs and making an even steeper approach. Recheck landing gear down on each leg of approach. Reduce power upon turning base leg and retrim. It will be down trim due to the lack of nose down thrust. The landing itself should be the full stall type, accomplished just as on the water. Do not be too concerned with excess speed on descent, as it will soon disappear when the nose is raised to level or above for landing. Both on water and land it is advisable to flare twice. Once to break the fairly steep glide path, and the second one to assume the correct landing attitude, which will appear to be much lower than in other types of aircraft. (Remember sitting in the aircraft on the ramp from Part 4 of this series)

You will find that the huge ailerons create much adverse yaw, therefore it is imperative that the rudder be used to control the direction of the Lake. This is true in every situation; land taxi, water taxi, step turns, climbs, descents, turns in the air and landings and takeoffs. During a crosswind landing hold the wing down into the wind and control direction with the rudders. Do not let up on the aileron or you will get the nose slewing around due to the yaw and a drift will start across the runway which gets worse with improper aileron control.

It is not necessary, and inadvisable to raise the flaps immediately after landing. If the wrong selector is raised, you could be sitting on your belly on the runway grinding away the keel strip. There is no “squat switch” to prevent the gear from retracting when on a hard surface runway. Another reason for leaving the flaps down, is that full flaps are needed for the next takeoff.

Here are several rules to follow:

  • Never allow the nose to go below the step landing attitude when near the water.
  • Never apply full power immediately after a bounce or skip off the water; go to one-half power, assume the step landing attitude and smoothly apply full power for a go-around. If you should touch again, you will be in the correct attitude. Most times it is not necessary to do anything at all after bouncing a landing except keep the correct attitude, as it will probably stay on the water at the next contact.
  • Never try to put the airplane on the water. Assume the correct attitude and wait for it to happen. Over-control of the elevator is probably the biggest mistake made in the Lake.
  • Never attempt a glassy water landing without a qualified checkout. It is, by far, the most dangerous situation in seaplane flying.
  • Never attempt to “stretch the glide”. Best glide speeds are fine at altitude, but once committed, land or water, lower the nose even farther and gain airspeed to flare with and avoid any “high sink rate”. The Lake will slow immediately when the nose is raised for a flare. Full power will stop the sink rate, but it takes a long time to fly out of it, and actually makes it worse for a few seconds after application.
  • Always use flaps for all take offs and landings, land or water. If you are maneuvering within 1000 feet of the ground, generally extend the flaps for greatly improved slow flight control.
  • In the event of a forced landing it is advisable to land gear up unless you absolutely know the terrain you are landing on. The Lake has been landed gear up on grass with no damage whatsoever.
  • It is advisable to raise the gear immediately after a land takeoff for better performance in the climb and to preclude forgetting to raise it for a water landing. An amphibian pilot should always be uncomfortable when the landing gear is down.
  • Fly a proper traffic pattern for both land and water. It is easier to see the correct angle of descent and to keep an eye on the landing surface and other airborne traffic.

Some basic information on Colonial Skimmers:

C-1, 150HP 23 built 1956/57, C-2, 180HP 20 built 1958/9, 34′ wingspan

Base Information Lake Amphibians:

LA-4-180, 180HP about 185 built 1960 to 1970, a few turbocharged, 38′ wingspan.
LA-4-200, 200HP about 885 built 1970 to 1984 (Buccaneer) more than a few turbo
LA-4-200EP about 45 built 1983/4 (extended propellor shaft and rear cowling)
LA-250, 250HP and 270T HP 137 built 1984 to present (Renegade)

Gross weight C-1 2150 pounds, C-2 2350 pounds, LA-4 2400 pounds, LA4-200 2600, 2690 if fuel in floats, LA-250 3150 pounds. The Skimmers and LA-4-180s are carbureted. All others are fuel injected.

A typical Buccaneer empty weighs about 1650 pounds. Optional heaters and turbos add around 30 pounds each. Each come equipped with a full panel, heated pitot, and a paddle. All 180HP and 200HP EPs are factory equipped with wing fillets (bat wings). Optional equipment consists of after-market items such as: batwings, wing root fillets, horizontal fin root fillets, vortex generators, hull strakes, turbocharger, heater, autopilot, 14 gallons of fuel in the floats, pneumatic hatch openers, bilge pump, radios, anchors and line, etc. Basic fuel capacity is 40 gallons (240lbs) located in a fuel cell in the fuselage. The Renegade is capable of holding up to 90 gallons.

Stalling speed for all models is approximately 50 mph or even less. A good, properly rigged Buccaneer, built on a Wednesday will indicate close to 130 mph at 75 percent power. The Renegade is a little bit faster and the Skimmers and 180HP Lakes a little bit slower. Some fly better than others.

All aircraft EXCEPT LA-4-180s from 1965 to 1970 were factory alodined and zinc chromate primed and that vintage are susceptible to severe corrosion. Newer models are epoxy primed.

There are several ADs on the Lake, but not a lot of them. Most important are 2000-10-22 dealing with wing attachment reinforcement and 2005-12-02 dealing with horizontal stabilizer mounting brackets. Most other ADs deal with engines, props, accessories and the like and are one-time compliance as are the two mentioned above. A properly maintained Lake is no more expensive to operate than a corresponding Piper Arrow. One that has been neglected can be a nightmare.

It is imperative that one gets training from a Lake qualified instructor. It is also imperative that a pre-buy inspection be done by a Lake qualified mechanic. Many Lakes have been owned by the same persons for 25 to 30 years. That alone should be an indicator of what a fine aircraft they are…and, they are fun!

Lake AmphibianText 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.

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