Colonial Aircraft Company – The Not So Early Years
Written by John Staber – By 1963 various people had gotten together to start making Lake Amphibians again. Colonial Aircraft was still in existence basically in name only and for government contracts. Herb Lindblad formed another company known as Aerofab, Inc. for the purpose of building the Lake Amphibian. The type certificate is now under the name Consolidated Aeronautics, formed of Herb Lindblad, M. L. Alson, John Dalton and several others.
M. L. Alson was a used aircraft dealer in the Elkhart, Indiana area who had successfully marketed the Brantley Helicopter, and his company was Aero-Marine Development Corporation.
“Al” Alson was under contract to purchase all the Lake Amphibians that Aerofab produced. The last Strayer Lake was serial number 267, N1024L, and the first Alson Lake was serial number 268, N1025L. Bearing in mind the past serial number increases for new models, this is the 68th aircraft built by Colonial and Aerofab.
A new paint design appears at this point…finally. It was to last right up until 1970 when another new model was offered. Each airplane left the factory “green”, which means that they flew in primer only to the sales office in Elkhart. Either enroute or shortly after, they would go to a paint shop for their final colors. The paint shop varied over the years as new shops were tried due to looking for the best job and the least cost.
I should mention that the cost of a new Lake Amphibian was $29,950, a far cry from the newer Lakes of the 1990s and 2000s. This price held until the 200 horsepower Lake “Buccaneer” went into production in 1970.
Meanwhile, back at the Great Barrington Airport, I was flying my Skimmer a lot. She taught me an awful lot about flying without scaring me too much. As I was building time in the logbook, I was working towards a Commercial License and I took the flight test in the Skimmer. I had flown her out to the Midwest and visited Al Alson and others along the way who owned Skimmers.
I even saw serial number 1 in Ohio, and took many slides of various Skimmers and Lakes. Since I hadn’t taken my flight test for the seaplane rating (SES) yet, Al signed a recommendation statement in my logbook and I took the test at Goshen, Indiana. This was in the summer of 1964. Later on in 1966 I got a postcard from Al suggesting I trade up to a new 1966 Lake and become a dealer. I took him up on it, leaving N252B with a tear in my eye. I came home in September with N2002L, #335 and kept on flying.
By now, I had gotten my instructor’s license and was working at the airport teaching and flying charter. In 1967 I left the banking world and went into flying full time at the airport, plus attempting to sell Lake Amphibians.
This is N2002L, serial number 335, at Copake Lake, NY. If you look closely you can see the landing gear is down, in preparation to parking on a beach. I don’t know why I let Al sell me this one, as I am not very fond of blue. Red is easier to see in the air, also.
One of the problems with selling new Lakes was the fact that there were quite a few dealer’s demonstrators on the market at greatly reduced prices and having very few hours of flying on them. It was almost impossible to sell one at list price. I finally got the idea of buying one of these airplanes at a greatly reduced price, cleaned it up and spiffed up the interior and sold it at a tidy profit. So I did it again with the same results. And once again. Finally N2002L was getting up in hours but I managed to sell her for what I had depreciated her to. Meanwhile, I had gotten my instrument rating in her and flown her out to California and Seattle and back and it was time for a new demonstrator.
This is part of a series of articles about the history of the Colonial Aircraft Company and the next installment comes out on Seaplanemagazine.com next week! I am considered the Colonial and Lake historian which prompted a compilation (on CD) of everything ever printed (and much more) about these fabulous amphibians from 1946 to 2016. Contact me via Email to obtain a copy of the book I have written, or the CD!