Notes From An Old Lake Instructor


Notes From An Old Lake Instructor

Written by John Staber — Notes From An Old Lake Instructor: Taxiing – A minimum of power. Try to point the nosewheel in the direction you want to go before getting in the plane. A hefty push on the side of the nose will do it. You must be moving to caster the nose wheel, then use full rudder and a tap on the brake. To straighten out, use rudder and brake in the opposite direction. The faster you are moving the easier it is. Power may be used judiciously as the prop blast over the rudder helps. You must be moving before trying to caster the nose gear. Plenty of air in the nose tire helps to compensate for the nose-down thrust.

I always put the student on the water on the first flight since that is what they bought the Lake for and it is more fun. They come away wanting more. I spend about ½ hour or so doing necessary air-work; slow flight including minimum controllable, rudder control, climbs, glides with flaps up and down, gear up and down at various air-speeds, mainly 65mph and 85mph, and most important pitch control with power changes. Then off to the water. By practicing getting on the step and falling off the step the student gets to know the feel of the amphibian and effects of wind and wave action, torque, p-factor and all sorts of other good things, without ever getting in the air. They are learning the “boat” operation.

Always make a pitch change with a power change. Nose down with power reduction and nose up with addition of power. Implant this firmly in the student’s mind and remind them of it each time they change a power setting. Show them what happens with nose attitude and airspeed when they do not do the above. This is extremely important when aborting a water takeoff but equally so on a land takeoff. Have them make turns with rudder alone, and aileron alone. Stress rudder usage as this is very important in water work. The yaw that develops with aileron use alone can be detrimental on the water and during crosswind land landings. Demonstrate how quickly the aircraft will slow down with power reduction and a nose high attitude, both gear up and gear down. Demonstrate when gear down, how you may point it almost straight down and the airspeed will not exceed the gear speed and how quickly it loses that speed when flaring for a landing.

USE FLAPS FOR ALL TAKEOFFS AND LANDINGS, therefore I generally leave them down when parked to eliminate the chance of forgetting them. They are 17 feet long each, and are of the slotted variety. Low speed, very high lift. They work with a high angle of attack and practically double the lift of the wing. With no angle of attack, they create a lot of drag. Short take offs. Short landings.

TRIM is important. As is a powerful elevator. We are dealing with many variables; high engine thrust line, land operations, water operations, the fact that additional weight in the cockpit changes the center of gravity forward, fuel changes it aft but moves it forward as it is burned off, and of course, the flap extension. In water operations, where the attitude of the amphibian is super-important, it is imperative that we use lots of, if not full “up” trim. This amount of trim and the high-lift flaps gives us our ability to experience a very docile and safe operation at speeds below lift-off and into the air. Step taxiing should be done at well below flying speeds with the weight of the hull on the water (like a boat). For take-off the weight should be transferred to the wings.

Power Settings


(auto rich) and full 2700 rpm


full throttle and 2650 rpm, 65-70 flaps down, 85 flaps up

Level Off

full power and 2650 rpm until trimmed for max airspeed. Most important!


reduce power to 2400 rpm, 24 inches

Traffic Pattern

20 inches, 2400 rpm, flaps down, trim, gear up for water, gear down on land


70 to 80 with good nose-down attitude and little power. Reduce power to idle before flare. Make two flares; one to break the steep glide angle, second to set up the right attitude close to the water or runway

USE THE SAME CHECKLIST EVERYTIME – the only change being the landing gear position

FLY THE SAME TRAFFIC PATTERN FOR LAND OR WATER – do not descend until after the turn to base leg has been made. Check landing gear position on base and final by looking out at the gear and repeating out loud “gear up for water”, “gear down for land”.

LakeText 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. You may receive a picture CD containing hundreds of pictures for a donation of $25.00.

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