Mike Bowes

Posted November 2, 2002

The text for the following article was taken from the ISPA newsletter, Vol.2 No.6 Page 41 Nov 1995. The picture of Mike and Jody Bowes with their Seawind was taken at the 2002 Splash-in in Manteo, NC.


I was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario. That's about sixty miles north east of Toronto a town of approximately sixty thousand then, whose chief interest was in serving the farming community.

On fine weekends my father would rent a Piper Cub with floats and treat the family and friends to rides, one at a time. Thus, I was exposed to water flying when I was too small to see over the panel.

Growing up on a farm taught me the value of knowing how to repair and build things. I am still a "backyard mechanic", doing all the work on our vehicles, appliances, air conditioners etc.

Twenty years ago I obtained my Private Pilots License and two years later gained my commercial. I bought a new Cessna 185 floatplane which I then leased for commercial operations with myself as the pilot. Two years later I exchanged the 185 for a Beaver Otter and Twin Otter. I flew the Canadian North year round on wheels/skis and floats. Bush flying was a great adventure...you never knew what was coming next. From flying sick infants to hospital to fighting forest fires to airlifting hunters/fishermen to idyllic locations...each day was different. This is how half of my 5,500 hours came to be on floatplanes..

Along the way I picked up Airline Transport tickets in both Canada and the U.S.A. My U.S. license bears a Citation Jet type rating and my Canadian a Dash 8. This was a prerequisite for the 1,000hrs of Dash 8 time I logged flying out of Halifax, on the East coast, for two years.

For many years in the mid eighties I was a residential contractor specializing in house outfitting. This experience drove home the knowledge that people are willing to pay well for others to do what they cannot or do not want to do for themselves. This is especially true if you establish a good reputation for excellence.

So, how did all this tie in with your present living in Florida?

I was visiting my mother in Bradenton. She had been a long time winter resident, and I just happened to need a haircut. Mom suggested that I go to a tiny, rather obscure shop that was nearby...but which I would never have found without her direction. As I went out of the door she teased, "There are some good looking single women working in that shop." Well I had my haircut and two years later wound up marrying one of those good looking women. I left behind my job of Chief Pilot at Orillia Aviation Ontario and moved south for good. But what was I to do. I was definitely too young to retire. Since 1978 I had been a collector of homebuilt aircraft literature and plans although I had never taken the big step. Through a friend, I heard of someone who was involved in "commercial assistance" to a Seawind project. (Yes, I'd heard of the airplane years and years ago) I went to see if he needed any help. He did and I worked with him for several months at his shop in Sarasota. Having run my own business in the past it was natural for me to put my own banner up and J. M. Bowes Aviation was incorporated. Several people who worked with me at that first shop elected to move with me.

So where are you now ?

We currently have three Seawinds on the floor along with a diminutive KR-1. One of the Seawinds belongs to Ed Glanovsky and is in an advanced stage of construction. Bless his heart, Ed has been, and continues to be an invaluable resource when it comes to technical detail and sourcing of those hard to find parts ! He's been doing it for a number of years and he's damned good at it. I have not become involved in chasing engines and props but I know what to do with the cores once they are sourced. We have sources for radios, instruments and first class upholstery. We also have show quality painters eager to do the work who are currently spraying with Sikkens products.

Are all your builders single owner/builders or are there any cooperative agreements between them/you?

Yes all are single owner/builders however although my name appears on the buyers list for production # 90. This aircraft has been for sale since day one. We run a non-stop Ad in Trade-a-Plane which produces numerous enquiries each month. Dick (Silva) agreed to release one non Kwick Kit to me. I wanted the experience of doing it all. Our customers usually buy Kwick-Kits however. I enjoy a good rapport with S.N.A. and have high praise in particular for John Hertzog who has turned the parts department around in my book. A Kit was recently delivered to us totally complete, save for a few listed items and these were rounded up and shipped within three weeks. Excellent job John!

What is the status of the three Seawinds you are building?

One kit is just nicely underway with about 100 hours into it. The other kit has almost 2000 hours and it should be close to completion in 2-3 months. The truth is we have done much of the work on these planes. The owners simply do not have as much time as they would like.

Have you set up anything that will help the builder learn to fly these planes?

I strongly endorse the hiring (or borrowing) of a pilot who has prior Seawind or at least Lake experience, for the checkout of both plane and pilot. This is the way the airlines do it and all too often we pilots let our great big egos rule our basic common sense. I would be pleased to offer myself as a prospective test pilot when the day comes that I have the experience, but that is not yet. As far as systems and operation of the individual planes I believe the owners will have a good understanding of what does what and how since we consult with them perhaps a dozen times prior to completion. Gear and fuel systems spring immediately to mind for example.

What has your shop to offer a prospective client?

We have a wonderful climate...we can build with doors and windows open year round. We are well situated on the affluent West coast of Florida, a winter playground for the successful, aviation oriented (spelled pilot) types who have built businesses often in the North East and who frequently own winter residences down here on the water. Its Seawind heaven!

When you are selling workmanship your own work speaks volumes. That is why I encourage anyone who has an ongoing interest in the Seawind, whether they desire assistance or not, to come and see our shop. We are details oriented and it shows. When I buy aircraft construction specialty tools, I buy the quality item because we're in this for more than a one off. I hate "toy" tools with a passion!

I strongly encourage our owners to participate in the building of their airframe and I have found all so far to be capable of exemplary workmanship. Our builders share their special knowledge and interests and this includes the ability to source elusive parts such as the gear position micro switches for example. At Bowes Aviation Inc. we aim to share our building experience with any who care to listen but we must be commercially viable. I am not one of those who claims to have the answer to all your problems but we have learned a lot and will share it with you if you decide to sign on with us.