Water Work With The Lake Amphibian Aircraft
Written by John Staber – There are two correct types of water landings with the Lake Amphibian “Buccaneer”. The step landing and the full stall landing. Full stall landings are not recommended in the Lake Renegade due to its longer fuselage. There is also the bounced landing, which happens in between the two correct ones. Anything between the “step” and the ”stall” usually results in a skip out of the water due to using a higher angle of attack than for a step landing and excess airspeed since it is not fully stalled.
Once one realizes that the attitude is no longer proper for a step landing, the full stall landing should be executed. While the step landing can be done with a little power, the full stall landing must be done with no power; increasing the angle of attack slowly, without ballooning, dragging the tail in first with no lift left in the wings and the elevator full up. It is recommended that the hand be off the throttle so as not to inadvertently increase power during a possible skip out again. Should this happen do not relax up elevator, but continue to hold full up elevator until resting in displacement. This author has several times saved a student induced bounced landing from at least 10 feet of altitude by using the full stall recovery with no damage to the aircraft.
Attitude, attitude, attitude
Remember to never allow the nose to drop below the step landing attitude when close to the water, whether it be a step landing or a bounce. While the Lake is resting on its wheels at the airport stand at a distance and look at the attitude of the plane. Note the the bottom slopes up to the nose and up to the tail; the lowest point being the step and skeg. This is the part of the plane that we want to contact the water first. Now get in the Lake and familiarize yourself with the attitude which will be the same as when you are about a foot off the water. This attitude should be maintained until touchdown. Do not try to put the amphibian on the water, but set up the attitude and wait for it to do it itself. Most Lakes if properly trimmed will do the job on its own, better than a novice pilot, in all realms of flight.
Getting on the step should be done with full power
Start off with full up elevator and trim and ease in the throttle slowly to keep the water spray at a minimum. Once the nose has risen and the gear doors have cleared the water, up elevator should be relaxed to allow the nose to lower to the correct step attitude, but no lower. Allow the speed to build to about 35 miles per hour. As the speed builds you will need to apply up elevator to keep the attitude, due to the drag of the hull on the water. Should you not do this, a porpoise will develop whereupon the nose rises and falls, exactly like a boat with too much weight in the nose. This can be and must be stopped by increasing the up elevator until it stops. It will. Immediately. The throttle should be reduced at this point before excess speed builds up. At this speed (35 mph), and in the “boat” mode, the Lake is very docile allowing you to apply full down elevator, up elevator, use full aileron in both directions and slew it around with the rudder making circles and figure eights just like a boat. It should return to a comfortable ride on its own, “hands off”. With the closing of the throttle it will slow down and wallow into displacement on its own. Should you “fall off the step” due to loss of speed because of all this horsing around, it is best to retard the throttle to idle and start again.
Step turns are fun but can get you into trouble if the speed is allowed to build close to flying speed. All turns should be made with the air rudder and water rudder up and the aileron used only to put the inside float on the water. As in the air, any deviation from straight and level will result in a lowering of the nose, therefore up elevator is needed to keep the attitude correct; when up elevator is used the plane will slow requiring more power; when more power is added, up elevator is used to compensate. This scenario will continue until a happy medium is reached whereupon the Lake stays in the planning attitude and continues in the turn with no further adjustments. Should more rate of turn be desired, more rudder is added, more back pressure added, along with more power until stabilized. Upon rolling out of a turn, the power should be reduced along with the amount of up elevator, just the opposite of the entry to the step turn. Remember, all turns, in or out, should be made with the rudder only. The tighter the turn, the more back-pressure needed and more power needed.
A 180 degree turn to takeoff is made by starting off downwind in the above manner, adding full power during the last half of the turn and increasing the diameter of the turn allowing the speed to build for takeoff by the end of, or close to the end of the turn. During this increase of power and speed it is imperative to keep the correct attitude with increased back pressure. It will lift off when it is ready at about 60 miles per hour.
Displacement turns are made with the water rudder down and a minimum of power to keep the spray and noise level down and with rudder only. Power may be used only when turning from upwind to downwind. Use only enough to keep you turning until directly downwind, then reduce. No power is used from downwind to upwind as centrifugal force and torque can and will bury the downwind wingtip, depending on the force of the wind. Should this happen reduce power and retract the water rudder allowing it to seek its own upwind direction. Do not panic as it will straighten itself out on its own. Windy days and power create spray which means we should keep the windshield waxed so the water will “bead” and run off. Most important is that you be comfortable with what you are doing. Therefore, you must set a limit to the severity of the operating conditions. Bear in mind also, that wind and wave conditions limit the amount of step taxiing one should attempt.
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. You can obtain a copy of my picture CD for a donation of $25.00.