The Washington Seaplane Pilots Association (WSPA) Fall 2015 Splash In was held September 11th through the 13th at Tanglefoot Seaplane Base (D28) in Cavanaugh Bay in the town of Coolin on Priest Lake, Idaho. Dr. Loel Fenwick and his wife Olson kindly shared their dock, ramp, and hangar facilities for the weekend. We had over thirty seaplanes arrive between Wednesday and Saturday and managed to dock, beach and ramp all of them without bumping any wings or tails.
Planes and Pilots from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Arizona flew in. WSPA volunteers provided and prepared meals Friday night through Sunday morning. Notable makes and models included, from small to large, Scout, Super Cub, Lake(s), Glasair Sportsman (very popular), Cessna 18Xs, Seawind, Beavers, Mallards, and The Turbine Supergoose.
The Washington Pilots Association (WPA) was holding an annual fly-in at Cavanaugh Bay (66S) nearby. Pilots from both groups visited and shared over the weekend. Both WSPA and WPA have common charters to protect, maintain and grow access to the areas we want to fly.
During the day Saturday, a fly-out was organized to several local destinations on Priest Lake, Sullivan Lake and in other Northern Washington and Idaho lakes. Two WSPA members familiar with the local lakes, terrain and procedures volunteered to organize and marshal the fly-out and hold a pre-launch pilots meeting. Late in the morning after making picnic lunches about twenty planes were off the water to the north. Through all the launching and retrieving of seaplanes all went well again.
Being at 2,439 feet and with the day warming into the 80s, it took some heavier planes up to 40 seconds to get off the water. A few CFIs remaining on the shoreline scoring takeoffs and landings noted that the common (but rare) observed mistake was departing directly into a steep Vx climb instead of accelerating level in surface (water) effect post liftoff. With a 19 mile long lake there was a lot of time to reach the proverbial 50 foot tree so why not get some speed before the climb? Level acceleration puts the pilot and plane in a better position to manage an engine out at takeoff than does a slower nose high orientation. Remember the lesson, “Accelerate in Ground Effect then transition to Vx or Vy”.
The weekend weather was perfect (cool mornings and evenings, and warm afternoons) and a welcome respite for all of us after a very hot and smoky summer. Arriving and departing planes did have to plan flights around nearly the dozen remaining fire fighting TFRs. Most pilots noted smelling smoke during some portion of the inbound journey. The fires are expected to burn until the snow comes this year.
On Saturday evening after all the planes go back and tucked in for the night, the Fenwicks hosted a social hour and then WSPA hosted a sit down dinner for everyone in the hangar. After dinner we had two speakers. Kevin Strait spoke on history, geography, flora, and fauna of the area, and Burt Rutan spoke on his almost-complete Ski Gull motor glider seaplane. First Flight is very soon. Both were exceptional speakers, appreciated and well received by the attendees.
On Sunday as we all were departing the weather west of the Cascade Mountains was changing with a cold front and on shore flow building up quite a cloud deck in the Puget Sound Basin. In addition strong winds a loft were forecast. Pilots were seen pacing and tapping smartphone screens to get weather updates all through the morning hours and phone calls west for observed conditions were being made. This is a common pattern in fall in the PNW and often by later in the day the low layers burn off and crossing the mountains is made possible. Our two last resort contingencies were park east of mountains and wait or cross south following the Columbia River through The Gorge (expect hellish wind) and then proceed north under the layer, a 5+ hour option with no great fueling options for those on straight floats. Off we all went, and the typical pattern held, and we were able to cross Stampede Pass to the south late in the afternoon and easily descend under what were by then 3,000 foot ceilings. The northern mountain crossings were all covered by the black wall of doom and we were glad to be home.
By 7:00 PM Social Media was lighting up with pictures and likes and comments about the event. For you Facebook-ers, go snoop Flights Above The Pacific Northwest (FATPNW), Washington Seaplane Pilots Association, and SPA Facebook pages for lots of pictures.
Thank you goes to Fenwicks for the spectacular facility, Kenmore Air for kickoff funding, and the WSPA board members who organized and managed the event; in particular Jack Jacobson whose idea it was and then took the yeoman leadership position to make it happen, and also Stephen Ratzlaff (President), Greg (and Mary Jo) Corrado (VP) who did the food, and Kevin Wyman, and Austin Watson who filled in the gaps. Recognition also goes to all the attendees who offered to help and did help with the myriad of things needing doing to make a successful event from marshaling planes to hauling trash.
Next year anyone?