Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association Seminar Goes On Despite Lake Ice

by Dave Weiman

BRAINERD, MINN. – Despite thick ice on Gull Lake, the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association (MSPA) held its annual seminar and fly-in at Madden’s Resort, May 3-5, 2013, near Brainerd, Minnesota.

About a dozen aircraft chose to fly in to nearby East Gull Lake Airport or Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Everyone else opted to drive to the event.

Newly-elected MSPA President Ben Thuringer welcomed everyone to the seminar. The event was supported by the Minnesota DOT Office of Aeronautics, and featured an exhibit area and vendors.

Brian Addis of Lake & Air at South St. Paul Municipal Airport was a featured speaker. Addis has a background in teaching flying and psychology, and prior to joining Lake & Air, he flew for Hubbard Broadcasting and worked for Northwest Airlines.

Addis has studied “human factors” and has done testing on a new audio warning system for amphibian float systems. The greatest fear among amphibian floatplane pilots is leaving their gear in the down position when landing on water. There is a high probability that the aircraft will flip over, and a 50/50 chance that the pilot will be injured and subsequently, drown.

Gear-down landing accidents involve pilot “distractions,” says Addis. “Airline and corporate pilots do not land gear down (in floatplanes) because they use written checklists and procedures, while most (other) pilots resort to memory checklists because written checklists tend to be too long.”

Addis noted three domains of learning and understanding: cognitive or thinking about doing something, psychomotor or actually doing something, and affective or how you feel about a certain topic or action.

Confirmation bias is when you come to a solution to avoid a gear-down water landing. The airlines are too structured to allow for confirmation bias problem solving, said Addis.

Addis contrasted the *entropy of flying seaplanes with flying for the airlines, with flying seaplanes having a high degree of entropy, and flying for the airlines, a very low degree of entropy because there is more order involved…strict procedures.

“Don’t give up your procedures,” said Addis, “but use a checklist that is usable.”

Addis advocates creating “quick reference checklists” to cure the problem of wheels-down water landings. He suggests taking a checklist and highlighting procedures for landing at airports in “green,” and highlighting procedures for landing on water in “blue.”

“Most pilots use visual signals and not audio signals, so an audio system may be ineffective,” said Addis. He described a new laser system that senses the surface one is flying over as a possible solution to the problem. “If it says anything, it is a signal for an automatic go-around.”

Addis noted that when flying a floatplane, the pilot has to take the place of the airport engineer in making sure there are proper clearances from trees and other obstacles.

Thirty to 40 percent of seaplane accidents involve wind, said Addis. The stronger the wind, the faster the pilot must react, and control inputs are different in strong wind conditions than in weak wind conditions.

The questions pilots must ask themselves is how much wind can the airplane handle, and how much wind can they handle. “If you cannot answer these questions, limit your flying to wind under 20 kts,” said Addis (www.lakeandair.com).

Each of the float manufacturers in attendance gave participants an update on their products including Brian Huberty of Clamar Floats of Hastings, Minn.; Jeff Voigt of Park Rapids Aviation, representing Aerocet Floats; and Bob Wiplinger of Wipaire, Inc., South St. Paul.

There’s a lot of competition among small single-engine aircraft float manufacturers, but not so much in the larger floats, where Wipaire dominates the market.

Wipaire is moving forward with its 1450 floats for Light Sport Aircraft and other small aircraft. The company is awaiting its TSO for the Composite 3000 floats for the Cessna 172, and the Composite 3450 floats for the Cessna 206.

Wiplinger said that Wipaire recognizes the popularity of fiberglass and carbon fiber floats, and will be offering their customers their choice between them and aluminum floats.

Wiplinger discussed the “laser gear advisory” and how the software-driven equipment requires a lot of FAA certification standards. The equipment uses warning lights.

Wipaire opened its Leesburg, Florida service center in February 2013, and is excited about the potential market opening up in China.

Larry Brickey of Wipaire provided participants with maintenance tips, and urged them to check the Wipaire website for service letters on all aircraft and floats.

The weather in May was more in line with “skiplane” flying than “floatplane” flying, and Rick Discher of TrickAir Snow Skis of Weyauwega, Wisconsin, did not miss the opportunity to promote his product line.

Unlike traditional snow skis in which you must remove the wheels of the aircraft before installing skis, TrickAir Snow Skis allows the aircraft owner to leave the wheels on. Check them out at www.trickair.com or call 800.374.4237 for additional information.

“Invasive species” and what seaplane pilots are doing to prevent their spread was probably the biggest topic of discussion. MSPA has taken a proactive approach in working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to get the latest information and provide correct preventive procedures to pilots.

Rob Haberman of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources briefed participants on the many types of “invasive species.” I left that session thinking that we know what species are out there and what we can do to prevent their spread, but that the DNR really does not know how to stop or control their invasion. Check out the DNR website for additional information and www.protectyourwaters.net.

Past MSPA President Mary Alverson briefed the membership on the “paperless medical” and the online procedure now required. See http://medxpress.faa.gov to register.

Retired Minneapolis controller and FAAST Team representative, Mark Schreier,  spoke on “iPads In The Sky” and how they are quickly replacing paper instrument charts. See FAR Part 91.21 for details.

There are a lot of helpful iPad applications available free of charge including an application that allows you to create your own checklists called “Checklists” (www.checklists.com), and “CloudAhoy” that can capture flight data and send it automatically to your account on the CloudAhoy server (www.cloudahoy.com).

Chuck Jarechi, a director with the Recreational Aviation Foundation, described the work his organization is doing to include private airports as one of the recreational uses permitted in state recreational-use statutes to limit liability. Jarechi flew his Cessna 185 all the way from Montana to be at the event.

Col. Jerry Ostern of the 148th Fighter Squadron in Duluth was the featured banquet speaker. Col. Ostern shared his experience of flying his Beaver on floats to Alaska, as well as his career in the Air Force. After a military leave of absence, he is returning to Delta Airlines.

If there is one thing I came away with from this seminar, and I hope you come away with from this article, there was plenty of information useful for all pilots – not just seaplane pilots. The MSPA Seminar & Fly-In is open to all pilots in the Midwest. Stay tuned to Midwest Flyer Magazine and the MSPA website for 2014 dates, which we hope are a couple of weeks later in the year to avoid the frozen lake (www.mnseaplanes.com).

*Entropy is the measure of the disorder that exists in a system.

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