Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017
Gary L. Mueller of Eagle River, Wisconsin, is a field director with the Seaplane Pilots Association in Wisconsin. Mueller is a retired chiropractor, and holds a Private Pilot Certificate with Single-Engine Land and Sea Ratings. He has only been flying since 2002, got his seaplane rating in 2006, and has 1380 hours.
Mueller owns two planes – a 1946 Cessna 120 on straight floats and skis, and a 1975 Cessna 172 SuperHawk. He has been married for 37 years to his wife, Susan. Their son, Brook, is a commercial pilot and flies for Weather Modification cloud seeding. Daughter, Megan, is a commercial pilot/flight test engineer for Cirrus Vision Jet. Daughter, Danica, works for an ad agency, and daughter, Karisa, is a physical therapist.
Growing up summers on Indian Lake just south of Eagle River, Wisconsin, it was inevitable that flying and water would someday intersect. “I was a late starter to flying, earning my Private Pilot Certificate at age 49, but a few years later those two passions met,” said Mueller. A polished 1946 Cessna 120 with floats and skis was for sale locally in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin. A retired American Airlines pilot was selling his pride and joy that was based on Lac Vieux Desert on the Michigan/Wisconsin border. Disappointingly, it was too late that year for Mueller to put the Cessna on floats. The next summer Dick Williams, a seasoned Eagle River seaplane instructor, gave seaplane instruction to Mueller and his daughter at their home on Indian Lake, the same lake that as a boy, Mueller had dreamed of one day flying a seaplane. By July, both Mueller and his daughter both had their seaplane ratings. The following summer, Mueller’s son got his rating using the same instructor and examiner.
“Seaplane flying in northern Wisconsin is extraordinary,” says Mueller. Wisconsin has thousands of lakes, many of which are large enough for seaplanes. Wisconsin is also a seaplane-friendly state having open access to most lakes. Only a few state-owned and national forest lakes have restrictions in northern Wisconsin. Lakes in southern Wisconsin, due to a larger population density, have some restrictions around Milwaukee and Madison.
In 2009, Mueller was asked to be the field director with the Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA) in Wisconsin. “SPA is a great advocate for all seaplane pilots in the USA and abroad, promoting safe and eco-friendly flying among all seaplane pilots,” said Mueller. SPA currently has over 5,000 members in the U.S. and Canada and cosponsors seaplane events in many states including Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“Camping overnight on a secluded beach and cooking a camp shore breakfast is my favorite seaplane venture,” said Mueller. “Bacon and eggs never taste better than on a sandy beach, while loons swim by and eagles soar overhead.”
Favorite destinations include Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin; Sky Harbor (KDYT) in Duluth, Minnesota; Bond Falls in the Upper Michigan Peninsula; Grand Marais, Minnesota; and Copper Harbor, Michigan.