Lake Amphibian operation, Part 4
The water landing. There is nothing quite as thrilling as making your first water landing in the Lake or Skimmer. While parked at the airport, step back about 10 feet from the amphibian and look at the hull. The lowest point is at the step directly under the engine. The hull then slopes up to the nose and the tail. This is the perfect attitude for a “step landing” on the water. Now sit in the airplane and note where the tarmac level is below and remember the attitude of the aircraft. This is exactly what it will look like shortly before a water landing.
Pick a day with a slight steady breeze (enough to tell the wind direction from the ripples on the body of water), and warm enough to pull up to shore and hop out. Upon reaching your landing area (beginners should give themselves at least a couple of miles of obstruction free water), fly overhead at a safe altitude (at least 1000 feet) and survey the area. Fly overhead with the flaps down and the throttle reduced to 20 inches of manifold pressure and trimmed properly. At this point do your second landing checklist, saying out loud, “This is a water landing, the gear is up!” Look out and visually confirm same, along with noting the internal gear light. The first check having been shortly after the land takeoff when you know you are off to do a water landing. Note your wind direction, wave action, approach area, departure area, obstructions (WIRES, ROCKS, floating debris, boats), and your go-around point should something not go as planned.
Much more is seen from this altitude than from a 100 mph low pass which does nothing more than warn the non-seaplane pilot homeowner of your impending arrival. Fly a normal downwind, turn to base leg, reduce power to about 15 inches and start a fairly steep descent, trimming as necessary. Airspeed should be around 80 mph. Check gear up again visually and out loud. Turn to final, reduce power more, lower the nose more, clear the shoreline comfortably, check the gear again, level off close to the water in the proper attitude and wait for it to land itself. For every power change and attitude change, there should be a trim change. Hence, nose down trim when reducing power. A small amount of power during the landing goes a long way. Excess power will tend to prolong the landing and results in a totally different “feel” upon reduction. When you are sure that you have made a good landing, reduce power to idle while simultaneously relaxing any back pressure on the yoke and let the aircraft slow down until it settles into the water “off the step”. Steering in the water can be done with just the air rudder and a small amount of power, or preferably with the water rudder extended for more positive control.
Most water taxiing should be done with the power at idle to keep the noise and spray at a minimum. The other type of water landing is the full stall. The procedure here is to flare just a bit higher and bleed off all the airspeed without ballooning and drag the tail in first with power off and the wheel full back. This method is also used as a recovery from a “botched” step landing or a bounce or skip. That is the third type of landing which should be avoided. Anything between the step and the stall landing will result in a skip out of the water due to excess speed coupled with a nose too high attitude.
Content and pictures courtesy and copyright of John Staber, Owner of Colonial Skimmer SN #1; John has flown and worked on Colonial Skimmers since 1964. In 2011 he published a book on the restoration of N6595K which can be purchased on his website: http://jstaber.com/books/skimmer/ If you are interested to learn about Skimmers and Lake Amphibian Aircraft, come visit and chat with John on www.seaplaneforum.com