There is a member of my flying club who owns a Cessna 172 on straight floats, and a half share of a light sport Legend Cub which spends its winters on skis and its summers on straight floats. Yeah, some people have it tough, right? I’ve been begging him for a ride for over a year now, and yesterday he asked on the club mailing list if anybody wanted to be his safety pilot while he tried out the new Garmin 430 in his Cessna. I think I set a record for speedy replies to that mailing list with my “PICK ME! PICK ME!” response.
So this morning I met him bright and early at his dock (which is a few hundred meters from the Baycreek dock where I frequently put-in for kayaking). The weather was absolutely perfect – very light breeze, bright sunshine, and temperatures in the low 60s. He was just finishing up pre-flighting, and after figuring out how to get into a Cessna for the second time in my life, we were ready to go. Mike described how you do a float take-off, and then demonstrated it. He climbed out north over Irondequioit Bay, and after reaching 2,000 feet called Rochester Approach to do an ILS 22 approach. After getting cleared for the approach, he punched it into the GPS, while I pulled out the approach plate and gave him the appropriate altitudes.
He doesn’t have the WAAS upgrade on his GPS, since being on straight floats he’s really only interested in en-route IFR and maybe a “break off the approach and get special VFR to a nearby lake” type approach, but I kind of missed some of the new features on our club’s 530W, even though I’ve only used them once. Like the fact that when you active an ILS approach, it automatically tunes the frequency, selects it, puts you in VLOC mode, and displays the ident.
His approach wasn’t the best, because there was a horrible noise in the radio like the intercom was breaking squelch or somebody had a stuck mike, and it distracted both of us a bit. He never went full deflection, but if it had been me flying I wouldn’t have been satisfied with it. Then again, it was the first approach he’d flown with this aircraft, *and* he was trying to debug a radio problem, and he still managed to keep within two dots deflection, which is as good as I did on my first couple of approaches on my IPC, so who am I to point fingers?
He then wanted to fly the RNAV (GPS) RWY 25 approach. I helped him set that up in the GPS as well, and once again gave him all the altitudes for the step-downs. He kept that one within one dot deflection and we ended up right over top of the runway.
After that, he asked for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 13 approach into Canadaigua. He let me set that one up completely, and because the Rochester VOR is an initial approach fix for the approach, we were on the course almost as soon as Rochester gave us our first vector. No slam dunk vector just outside the final approach fix here, we were established 13 miles before. Again, we descended at the final and then a step down fix, and ended up right over the runway. I’d noticed that I was getting a tiny bit airsick from spending too much time watching the instruments, so I spent most of this approach looking outside and trying to avoid looking at the GPS and CDI. Which, considering it was an uncontrolled field, is probably a damn good idea, although I didn’t see anybody around.
After that, we flew on to Canadaigua Lake and Mike demonstrated a landing, and then let me do a couple of take offs and landings. My first take off sucked – I was trying to drag it off the water before it was ready. My first landing was worse – we slammed into the water, and I apologized for how badly I was treating his plane. The next take off was much better – after getting on the step, I relaxed the back pressure, and didn’t pull back at all until the lack of water noise said that we were airborne. The next landing was smooth as glass – by then we were in the bottom half of the lake that was much smoother water, and I think that helped.
I did a few more take offs and landings. On the landings, a couple of times Mike had to suggest that I raise the nose a bit before we slammed into the water, but a couple of times I think I got the sight picture just right. You’re higher off the surface than you are in a wheel plane, and it kind of surprises you at first. On the take offs, in the bit of the lake where there was a bit of a cross breeze, I was over correcting with the rudder at first, but I think I got the hang of it later. After all these years of flying Pipers, I hardly use my feet except for on climb out, but I think I got the hang of it.
Anyway, I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, so I told Mike I’d done enough (although I could have spent the day hopping from lake to lake) and we went back to his base at Irondequoit. He mentioned that we should try flying his Legend Cub some time. I’m definitely going to hold him to that.