Why do retro seaplanes take off?

Retro seaplane flying is the most fun you can have with your clothes, ”said Steve Slater, 61, vice president of the Northamptonshire-based Vintage Aircraft Club and a member of the Honorable Company of Air Pilots. Seaplanes have been evolving since the early 20th century, but they gained real recognition after World War II, with thousands of models appearing. While some pilots attached floats to the 1930s and 1940s with Piper Cubs, creating “seaplanes”, manufacturers created “flying boats” that floated on their hulls, some with retractable wheels for terra-firm movements – see the iconic Seabee. James Bond flew to the lair on Scaramanga Island in 1974 The man with the golden gun. Now the market for these models has shrunk again.

Wee Dram, Cessna 172 from 1969

Wee Dram, Cessna 172 from 1969. © Keith Wilson

“With the seaplane, there is the essence of freedom,” said Hamish Mitchell, a Scottish air traffic controller who owns a 1969 retractable Cessna 172 seaplane called Wee Dram. He funded it by conducting air safaris and seaplane conversion courses for licensed pilots across Scotland to Floats. “Scotland is like a mini-Alaska. You see the beauty of a seaplane that you would not otherwise see. ”

1963 De Havilland DHC-2, POA, csplane.com

1963 De Havilland DHC-2, POA, csplane.com

Seaplanes are difficult to fly outside English or Welsh inland waters, but are mostly allowed in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is one of the reasons why they remain relatively scarce in the UK. Elsewhere is another story. Alaska’s Lake Hood alone holds an average of 400 daily takeoffs and landings, many of simple but robust vintage aircraft. Lake-rich Scandinavia is another hot spot, while the Italian Lake Como has repeatedly been identified as the best destination, whether flying or renting the fleet of Aero Club Como. Alan Vogel of sales of historic and classic aircraft, Buckinghamshire, says demand for the aircraft is escalating internationally. “In the last five years, the harvest value of the Piper Cub has tripled, some to $ 100,000. These are the simple attractions: take a fishing rod and fly to an amazing place.

A De Havilland Harbor Air Beaver

A De Havilland Harbor Air Beaver © Alamy

British seaplane enthusiasts are currently looking to North America, Slater said, where inland water regulations are more acceptable; Richie Piper of the Vintage Aircraft Club adds that Florida is especially on their radar. Just as car clubs gather for barbecues, seaplane owners gather socially on the shores of North American lakes. “Flying is very liberating in the United States,” Piper said. “Holiday houses on the water have moorings for seaplanes; there are few restrictions on inland waters. Buying a seaplane and keeping it abroad is a viable offer, including in terms of investment.

1946 Republic RC-3 Seabee

1946 Republic RC-3 Seabee © Aero Club Como

The 1945-46 Republic Seabee looks like something out of a Flash Gordon movie – and is especially rare as it was only produced two years after the war. Members of the Seabee Owners Club trade through its website, mostly in North America. Ready-to-fly aircraft start at about $ 40,000; the winners give $ 160,000.


Sales of Canadian aircraft, Canada csplane.com

Sales of historic and classic aircraft, UK historicandclassicaircraftsales.com

Seabee Owners Club, USA republicseabee.com


Aero Club Como, Europe aeroclubcomo.com

EAA AirVenture, USA Oshkosh, Wisconsin, eaa.org/airventure, July 25-31

Scotland of Floats, United Kingdom scotlandonfloats.com


Seaplane Pilots Association, USA seaplanepilotsassociation.org

Vintage Aircraft Club, United Kingdom vintageaircraftclub.org.uk

In Europe, the 1940 Cub J-3s ranged in price from about $ 30,000 to $ 69,000 on controlleremea.co.uk. (“You can’t go wrong investing in a retro Cub,” says Vogel.) Easy-to-install floats cost $ 12,000 to $ 20,000. Richie Piper also offers a larger de Havilland Beaver. “Fantastic classics from the Second World War. Real workhorses with amazing sounding radial engines, perfect for six people heading to the Canadian lakes. ” Canadian Aircraft Sales has Beavers from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s from $ 560,000 to $ 750,000.

Ten-hour conversions of seaplane licenses in the UK and Europe cost £ 3,000 to £ 3,500; that’s $ 2,099 for the five-hour US version. Derek Head, deputy chief flight instructor at Plane Sailing, says seaplane landing requires a different landing technique. “And at this point, when you become a boat, you have to be skilled in seafaring to properly observe the water conditions, maneuver and land safely, as you would with a boat.”

De Havilland Beaver lands on a lake in Alaska

Beaver De Havilland lands on a lake in Alaska © Alamy

In 1935, Caproni CA 100

A 1935 Caproni CA 100 © Aero Club Como

Dubliner Ciara O’Toole is a board member of Aero Club Como. The oldest seaplane training school in the world, founded in 1930, is a destination for water-addicted pilots, made up of the legendary social calendar. Fascinated by the plane, O’Toole took lessons, was quickly drawn to mountain and lake views and qualified in 2011. At the club you can rent owned by members 1935 Caproni CA 100, Cessna 305 Bird Dog from 1961 and 1946. Seabee. (The Bird Dog is for rent between € 231 and € 351 per hour after club fees from € 480 to € 900.)

O’Toole will be sitting at the club bar with an aperitif, watching the animated plane pick-up at the end of the day: “The hangar is in the city on the other side of the road from the lake. Locals are used to it, but tourists stop on their way as planes push back and forth. It will never be allowed if proposed today.

“Looking at how planes are stowed away, you never think they will fit. This is poetry in motion. The geometry of the wings and tail somehow works, and with a lot of shouting and waving, it’s done in five minutes. ”

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