Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association Safety Seminar Attracts Water & Land Pilots From Throughout The Midwest

by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2017 issue

Under the leadership of Steve Guetter, President of the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association (MSPA), and its board of directors; administrative support from Cassandra Isackson and her staff at the Minnesota DOT Office of Aeronautics; knowledgeable speakers and support from business sponsors; and the hospitality of the Thuringer family and their staff at Madden’s on Gull Lake, this year’s MSPA Safety Seminar in Brainerd, Minn., was bigger than ever before, attracting pilots from not only Minnesota, but also from Wisconsin, Illinois and other parts of the Midwest.

Speakers included Cassandra Isackson, Kathy Vesely and Rachel Obermoller of the Minnesota DOT Office of Aeronautics, who described the functions of their office, airport licensing and standards, and ways pilots can be involved with their local airport…Jason Jensen of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, who described how the DNR uses floatplanes in wildlife management and law enforcement…FAASTeam Program Manager Kevin Morris from the Minneapolis FAA Flight Standards District Office, who quizzed and challenged participants on safe flying practices…CAF Redtail Squadron leader, Doug Rozendaal, who described how his flying has changed over the years, especially noting why flying low cross country is no longer a safe option due to the increased number of cell phone towers…Wipaire chief pilot and aviation psychologist, Brian Addis, who raised our awareness of our decision-making processes…Retired air traffic controller, Mark Schreier, who shared some of his experiences assisting pilots, especially in adverse weather conditions, and stressed the importance for pilots not to hesitate to ask for help…Steve McCaughey of the Seaplane Pilots Association, who described some of their accomplishments and growth in recent years…and Dr. Randle Corfman, President of the Minnesota Pilots Association (MPA), who briefed pilots on how best to comply with “Basic Med” requirements, and the reluctance of some physicians to conduct the examination.

A record 185 people attended the banquet to hear AOPA President Mark Baker brief them on everything from “Basic Med” and AOPA initiatives to get more people flying, to a proposal by some elected officials to privatize the air traffic control system.

Exhibitors displayed their products and promoted their services. The grand prize presented at the banquet was a Lightspeed headset donated by Wipaire, Inc. Wipaire also sponsored social hours on Friday and Saturday evenings and the band at O’Madden’s Pub following the banquet. Other exhibitors donated door prizes for the silent auction.

Twenty-two aircraft flew into Gull Lake on floats, and 21 aircraft flew into East Gull Lake Airport (9Y2), located adjacent to the resort.

The weather cooperated on opening day on Friday, but was reduced to IFR when most participants departed on Sunday, which made for an interesting morning for both floatplanes and land aircraft requesting clearances. Some pilots opted to stay one more night to wait for better weather.

The 2018 Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association (MSPA) Safety Seminar will be held May 18-20 at Madden’s. The featured banquet speaker will be Jeff Skiles of “Miracle on the Hudson” fame.

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320-214, departed New York’s LaGuardia Airport on a routine flight to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, N.C., but it was anything but routine. About 3 minutes into the flight at 3:27 p.m. EST, the aircraft struck a flock of Canada geese during its initial climb-out, causing both jet engines to quickly lose power. First Officer Skiles was flying at the time, but at Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s request, he gladly turned over the controls of the aircraft to him. Capt. Sullenberger initially turned back to LaGuardia, and considered landing at nearby Teterboro Airport, but soon realized that they did not have sufficient altitude to reach either airport and managed to land in the Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew onboard evacuated safely, and were rescued by ferryboats within minutes after landing.

The incident became known as the “Miracle On The Hudson,” but according to Skiles, it was not a miracle, but rather the result of good training.

Skiles will feel right at home with the seaplane pilots at the seminar, not because he helped land an aircraft on the Hudson River, but because following the incident, the Oregon, Wisconsin native obtained his seaplane rating. Skiles also co-chaired the EAA Young Eagles Program for several years with Sullenberger, worked at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh, Wis., and was featured with Sullenberger in the motion picture “Sully,” directed by fellow aviator, Clint Eastwood, and starring Tom Hanks as Capt. Sullenberger, and Aaron Eckhart as First Officer Skiles.

The motion picture was based on Sullenberger’s book, “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” a memoir of his life and of the events surrounding Flight 1549, published in 2009 by HarperCollins, and co-authored by Jeffrey Zaslow.

Whether seaplane rated or not, the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association Safety Seminar is worth attending, as much of the information presented in the sessions can be applied to both floatplane flying and aircraft on wheels (www.mnseaplanes.com).

For more information on Madden’s on Gull Lake, visit www.maddens.com.

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