Fly-In 2003

The 2003 Seawind fly-in was organized and held by members of the International Seawind Pilots Association and hosted by Mike Bowes in Sarasota Florida.

For those of you who have ever had the privilege of attending a Seawind fly in, you'll know that the written word falls far short of describing these events. We started by meeting at an air-conditioned conference room at Dolphin Aviation at 10:00 AM.

Sunrise at 2003 Fly-in

Sunrise at the 2003 Seawind Fly-in, September 27, 2003. ISPA Members Larry Sapp and Keith Walljasper's Seawinds. Dolphin Aviation, Sarasota, Florida.

We held a typical hangar flying bull session among friends who now have years of experience in common, even though some were attending a Seawind fly-in for the first time. You simply had to be there to get the whole of these discussions, but the gist of them is given below. Some of the topics of special interest were the following:

2003 Attendees:

Fred Lohr, Keith Walljasper, John Parks, Mike Bowes, Dick Wolf, Tom Saccio, Ed Lynch, Larry Sapp, Ron Greely, Brent Carlson, and Bowes Aviation master craftsmen Chris Dougherty and Larry Januszewski, Several of us brought friends and family members (names may be provided later, I failed to get a list, was overwhelmed by the event I guess, [ed]).

We had 18 persons at the dinner on Saturday night. George Osborne intended to fly his Seawind in but was prevented by bad weather. John Ricciotti was also scheduled but detained. To our delight, Jody Bowes also attended the dinners held Friday and Saturday night. Jody also helped with the arrangements and restaurant choices. Excellent job Jody. Thank you for helping and being there.

Larry Sapp's Seawind at 2003 Fly-in

Larry Sapp's Seawind (above) Photos do not even come close to showing the actual beauty of this work of art. Up close, this paint job (done by Chris and those at Bowes Aviation) is simply stunning. Just one of Larry's life long hobbies has been carving his own fishing lures. This is his largest to date (he said he has "omitted the tail hook").

Kieth, Larry, Fred, and Ron discuss Keith's SeawindSNA Seawind kits, kit support, and building:

Seawind kit production has been halted for the foreseeable future. About future kit support, the main point is that builders who need parts should order them NOW. Future parts may only be available for the certificated version. They will probably be more expensive, and may be somewhat different. We can only speculate.

SNA Certification thoughts and speculation:

Paul Furnee's letter (posted on the "News" page and the "Seawind Piloting" page) was discussed at some length. The discussion by experienced Seawind pilots was especially fascinating. Two overriding points seemed to come out of this discussion: 1. Everyone who is even the least bit familiar with the Seawind wants SNA to succeed. 2. The consensus is that the published time table seems overly aggressive, but we're all pulling for SNA. We collectively wish Dick and all at SNA the best hopes for success.

ISPA website format, content, and requests for improvement:

Since most of us bookmark the Hangar page and always go directly there, it was requested that a note be placed in the "Hangar" when the "News" page is updated. (Great idea. A brief message will be posted when the "News" page is updated and then removed later.)

Seawind resale value and liability considerations:

Since Seawind kit production has been halted, our feeling is that their value will probably go up. There is some thought that they may become highly sought after collector's items. In light of this, the value of keeping a Seawind registry, and the actual number of existing kits was discussed. The latest number of Seawind kits is 169 (as published by SNA in the news articles about Dean Rickerson's Seawind, see links page. Kit #170 has since been sold to ISPA member Tom Thunnell, and is scheduled for delivery in mid October 2003). The point was made by many long-time builders and owners at the meeting that some of these kits only consisted of the ailerons. For now, our only reference for registry information is our members. Please review the registry often, be on the lookout for any information about Seawinds, and (as Tom did here) send me any information you can add.

Larry Sapp, rightfully proud, talks with Mike about N514KTThe necessity for cutting up your Seawind with a chainsaw rather than selling it is was discussed at some length. ( Yes folks, two members in the room knew of folks cutting up beautiful kit-built aircraft with chainsaws or saws-alls and sold for parts. None that we know of was a Seawind though.) Several interesting points came out of the discussion. No one we know is going to cut up their Seawind, no matter what. Liability as a builder apparently lasts 18 years. Since many of us spent our children's inheritance on our Seawinds, we may as well hand them down and keep them in the family. On the other hand, there are qualified and interested buyers out there. During recent years several Seawinds have sold. It just takes the right buyer, and we as the builder/seller need to choose carefully.

Piloting the Seawind:

The cross section of our members includes individuals from all occupations. Many are high time pilots, however many are not. For everyone, but especially those of us who are low time pilots, this discussion carried the day. Actual piloting techniques were covered in some detail, and followed pretty closely with the information presented on the "Seawind Piloting" page. Two of the pilots in the room, Larry and Keith, who are not pilots for a living, discussed their experience with learning to fly the Seawind. This discussion alone could fill pages, but in short, the summary goes something like this. Low time, and general aviation pilots can learn to safely fly a Seawind.

In general, it will take at least 10 to 20 hours of dual with a competent and experienced Seawind pilot, and 35 to 50 hours of solo time in your Seawind before you will begin to feel comfortable. It takes practice to master and coordinate pitch control. All the flight time discussed here is land operations only. Water operation will require that a person be fully proficient with all aspects of Seawind specific flight and land operation before beginning water operations. The consensus from those with experience was best summed up by Mike Bowes, "she's a lady, you've got to treat her like one." This discussion is particularly helpful to those of us low time pilots who view piloting the Seawind with considerable angst, however I did note that even the high time pilots in the room relished this discussion (who doesn't love to hangar fly ahy?). Thank you for helping.

Oh yes, Mike told his story first hand about a rather unpleasant flight(?) experience he once had. It is contained in the "Newsletter Archives" on this site so I won't repeat it here. Mike did leave out my favorite part though, about "the airplane was going down the runway shedding parts like a turkey at a Thanksgiving Feast!" (you just had to be there.)

Sunrise at the 2003 Seawind Fly-in, September 27, 2003.

ISPA Members Larry Sapp and Keith Walljasper's Seawinds. Dolphin Aviation, Sarasota, Florida.

Insurance for the Seawind:

A great discussion was held about insurance. Here's the summary. None there had hull insurance. Most seemed to have liability insurance, as it is required in order to store your airplane on some airports, particularly in America. Most had Avemco liability insurance and the cost seemed to be between $1200 and $2000 per year depending on Seawind specific flight hours. It was also mentioned that the coverage was pretty anemic. As I recall, the coverage was limited to $100,000 medical per person and $1MM per incident.

No one at the fly-in, and no one we knew of had hull insurance. Hull insurance seems unavailable and/or prohibitive at this time. This topic still results in a lot of consternation for many Seawind owners. The most we can do to improve the situation is to improve the safety record while increasing the flight hours of the Seawind. (Editor's note: my insurance consists of enlisting the help of Mike Bowes and his staff, and also the experience from all of you. Can you think of a better policy?)

Part of this discussion that was particularly interesting revolved around the fact that just having insurance may encourage a law suit. If there is no insurance, there's probably not as much potential for the suing party to "hit-it-big."

The discussion about builder liability and insurance was wrapped up with the following:

A truck driver amused himself by running over lawyers as they walked down the side of the road. Every time he saw a lawyer walking along the road, he would swerve to hit him. There would be a loud "thud," and then he would swerve back on the road.

As the truck driver drove along one day, he saw a priest hitchhiking; he pulled over and asked the priest, "Where are you going, Father?" The priest said he was on his way to his church up the road. "I'll give you a lift."

The priest climbed into the passenger seat and the truck driver continued down the road. Suddenly, the truck driver saw a lawyer walking down the road and instinctively swerved to hit him. At the last minute, he remembered he had a priest in the truck and swerved back onto the road. Even though he knew he missed the lawyer, he still heard a loud "thud." Unsure of where the noise came from, he glanced in his mirrors. When he didn't see anything, he turned to the priest and said, "I'm sorry, Father. I almost hit a lawyer."

The priest replied, "That's okay, I got him with the door."

Fuel system configuration:

Mike finally talked briefly about his fuel system, which includes slight modifications to the SNA configuration, but has now been flight tested for many hours. Mike's system enables selection of left, right, or both tanks the way most of us have become accustomed.

Mike's system uses the same SNA vent scheme, and arguably could be viewed as a simplification to the original system. From an engineering perspective, Mike's design is "elegant." (yes, that is a legitimate engineering term) Later, at Mike's shop, he showed us the components of his system, and a new pump/filter system that is being installed in Dick Wolf's Seawind.

OK, we have to state here for the record, "don't mess with the fuel system (unless you damn well know what you're doing)." A page describing the N369JB fuel system, including photos from the fly-in, and a sketch provided by Tony Jurcan has been added to the "Builder Tips" pages in the "Members Only" section of the site.

The group talked in the conference room from 10:00 AM until about 1:30 PM. Following the discussion we went out on the ramp to look at Keith, Larry, and Mike's planes before going to Mike's Shop. Nothing could have prepared me for the delight in visiting Bowes Aviation. It's even better than everyone says. As most of you know, Mike has Three Seawinds, a Lion Heart, and a Giles aerobatic plane in his shop.

Any discussion about Mike's shop and his people simply has to start out with a comment about the following: Mike and his people are true artisans and professionals. Their work is superb. In addition, they are just super nice people who are willing to share and help in any way they can.

It is impossible to list everything I saw in the shop. Some of the interesting items included the following:

One of the Seawind owner/builders who's plane is in the shop is ISPA member John Parks. I spent a lot of time looking at John's stainless steel hydraulic line installation and talking with him about it. John is using stainless to avoid any possibility of corrosion. A side note, after a separate discussion about the cabin heat system with John, he handed me a handful of SNA cabin heat parts so that I can get started on building my own. (SNA does not currently have any cabin heat options available for kits.)

John also mounted the aileron pulleys that are located behind the 146 bulkhead in an interesting way. At Mike's suggestion, he widened the 146 bulkhead below the aft floor so that the lower aileron pulley could be mounted below (and clear of) the removal hole for the landing gear leg pin. Time spent talking with someone like John, who has experienced the building process is invaluable. John, like everyone at the fly in, is knowledgeable, genuine, and helpful. Thank you John.

Instrument panels that come out of Mike's shop are stunning when seen up close. But the reasons aren't all that obvious. Dick Wolf's control console and instrument panel installation was at a point where everything could be inspected.

I learned that part of the reason these panels look so different, and so nice, is that instead of canting them back at an angle, "Mike and the Mechanics" position them straight up. This is the kind of thing you look at but don't see. I have already cut my panel supports to the configuration shown in the builder manual, so now I have to do some rework, and as you know, rework takes longer than doing it right.

One other lesson I learned (and just-in-time for a change) is that you don't want to position your mixer assembly and drill the associated mounting holes in the bulkheads until you have the wings on and properly position the flap drive bell cranks relative to the hull. Thank you Ed Lynch.