Australian Seaplane Adventure
Ah, the offer of free food, flying, and fun gets them every time :-) If you can lead us to a seaplane then leave the rest to us. Lets share our love of seaplanes!
Thank’s for reading this.
I’m a 34 year old kiwi pilot with about 840 hours and an old kiwi floatplane rating. She’s a 29 year old scuba diving Japanese honey. We just got married last week and as well as each other, well . . . we love seaplanes. I’ve thus decided to dedicate myself to becoming the best professional seaplane pilot I can while providing my family with the simple and beautiful lifestyle they wish. To that end we’ve decided to emigrate to Australia. As our honeymoon we’ll take a camping car for five weeks from May 7th to June 11th and drive up the Eastern Coast of Australia from Melbourne to Cooktown, calling in on as many seaplanes as we can. Our little adventure has three purposes – find out more about seaplanes, find a place to move to and enjoy Australia.
As we know so little about seaplanes we’ve decided to follow my Grandad’s advice; ‘just make sure you write it all down.’ As such we’ve started this website on seaplanes and would also love to write a book on seaplanes in Australia, 'We Love Seaplanes Down Under'. Hopefully we can pick up enough information and photos to make an interesting book. I believe there are a number of great seaplane pilots out there with tales worth telling, perhaps you've a few as well?
Gentlemen, any advice or words of wisdom will be gratefully received and carefully considered. Just drop an email here please. We would love to follow up any leads and meet you in person. If you’d also consent to a brief interview where your seaplane adventures could be saved for posterity and added to the book on Seaplanes Down Under then a meal and a little present would be the least we could do. If you're got access to a seaplane then we'd love to pay for a flight with you as well please. We're just after experience and a chance to talk with you. We're pretty friendly so it'll be fun :-)
We are very sincere and feel very blessed to have this chance to reset our lives.
Thanks for giving our dreams wings
Plan (all up in the air of course so please do drop an email with any suggestions:-)
May 7th Melbourne arrive, pick up Camping Car, set up bank account and visit Melbourne Seaplanes
May 8th Geelong orgaize initial floatplane training at Bay City Seaplanes
May 9th Geelong Seaplane retraining
May 10th Great Ocean Road Honey moon tour along surf coast down the lovely Great Ocean road to the 12 Apostles
May 11th Southern Victoria Honey moon tour- Camperdown, Foxhow, Cressey, Ballarat & the excellent Sovereign Hill
May 12th Moorabbin Airport CASA office for licening, Australian Museum, Melbourne Seaplanes, Point Cook Museum
May 13th Geelong Seaplane retraining!
May 14th Geelong Seaplane retraining, gained Australia Float Endorsement !
May 15th Geelong Honey moon
May 16th Geelong Honey moon
May 17th Geelong Seaplane ICUS
May 18th Williamstown Seaplane training
May 19th Williamstown Seaplane training
May 20th Albury Drop in to Albury Airport to check out the Amphib Birdog
May 21st Albury Discuss Alligator Air with Ken & drool over Australi's lovest for sale Lake
May End Camden Haven Meet Bill
May End Port Macquarie Investigate Akuna
May End Gold Coast Fly with Gold Coast Seaplanes
May End Southport Fly with Cloud 9 Seaplanes
May End Columbatta Drop into Seair
May 29th Brisbane Update the homepage, contact Cloud9 Seaplanes, Gold Coast Seaplanes
June Sunshine Coast Meet Kevin
June Airlie Beach See heaven
June Cairns FOD Hazard and three :-)
June 11th Cairns back to NZ to arrange emigration to Australia
Places (will visit the following & any more we can find)
Geelong Bay City Seaplanes
Melbourne Melbourne Seaplanes
NEW SOUTH WALES
Sydney Sydney Seaplanes Sydney by Seaplane
Ballina Akuna Air
Port Macquaire Akuna Air
Port Macquarie Akuna Air
Sunshine Coast Cloud9Seaplanes
Flying Boat Endorsements : Lake Amphibian : Endorsement $AU4,400 : 3days, 10 hours
Runaway Bay Seair
Gold Coast Gold Coast Seaplanes
Airlie Beach Air Whitsunday
Hamiliton Island Aviation Tourism Australia
Magnetic Island Red Baron Seaplanes
Cairns Cairns Seaplanes
Cooktown Ahoy! Seaplanes
Getting back into seaplanes with an Australian Float Endorsement!
It was my great pleasure to train in Geelong with Bay City Seaplanes in a U206F, UBI. Geelong is a lovely, thriving city, full of friendly people with a delightful foreshore under continual beautification. Both Bay City's seaplane base and its customer friendly pontoon are in picturesque spots allowing easy access to Corio Bay.
The owner Greg Bolton and his family went out of their way at every turn to make my wife and I welcome both in his airplane, in his city and in his house. Greg also spoke in detail about his operations and offered numerous insights into the workings of a successful start up seaplane company. The instructor, Michael Giles, drew on his wide and varied experiences to talk with us at length about seaplane theory and history while providing many unique learning experiences on the water and in the air.
Together both pilots combined to teach much about seaplanes, practically, theoretically and operationally. Through them I was able to obtain an Australian Float Endorsement, take part for a moment in the wonderful world of seaplanes and further understand how best to shape myself to become a safe, skilled and serious, in the most friendly of ways, seaplane pilot.
As always, we are very keen to hear from any seaplane pilots and any news on the seaplane world as we continue our Australian seaplane adventures.
Next stop is further training with Melbourne Seaplanes :-)
Splish-splash - weloveseaplanes
Preparation, Patience & Professionalism
Melbourne Seaplanes is an inspiring example of how love really does win through. Run by considerate and caring Rod & Leonee Gunther in historic Williamstown, their well established seaplane operation is an institution along the bustling waterfront.
A testimony to their community spirit is their unique claim of never having received a noise complaint in over 12 years of harmonious operation. And what a harmony it is. In just about the cutest seaplane office you've ever seen (complete with ice creams!) Lonee runs the business and pilots the pick up trailer with a deft hand won over years of loyal teamwork. Despite being so wet behind the ears I leave puddles in my wake, Rod took me under his wing and patiently taught me more than a thing or two. It was eye opening seeing how the preparation, patience and professionalism of an experienced seaplane operator working in harmony with his wife and the countless yatchs surrounding them create an excellent learning environment.
With charming accomodation on hand in their well prepared Catalin Lodge we greatly enjoyed their company, their patient answers to all our questions and our very professional lessons with Melbourne Seaplanes.
Shagbats & Black Cats in the national RAAF musuem
RAAF Base Williams Point Cook is the birthplace of the RAAF, the worlds second oldest air force, and as the home to the RAAF museum serves as a portal to the past. In them old days when the flame of courage burned brighter in the hearts of men seaplanes flew in every part of the planet. Exploring, rescuing, pioneering and carrying the faithful on one adventure after another. In those eras when nature was the god and men were the ants seeking to her escape her wrath, seaplanes, and amphibious flying boats in particular were the only means of spanning the sea the sky and the land. It contains two worthy examples of these historic seaplane salt worths, a bright yellow Supermarine Seagull Mk V (Walrus) and a shady black Catalina illustrating two essential abilities of seaplanes - exploration and rescue.
The famous Shagbat, as Seagulls were affectionately nicknamed, was designed by R.J.Mitchell of Spitfire fame, first flown in 1933 and with 61 used by the RAAF these four place amphibians were said to be sturdiest aircraft ever built - reputably even capable of performing an outside loop. On display is a loving restoration of HD874 which took part in the first post war Australia Antartic expedition where her bright yellow color scheme won her the name "Snow Goose" but couldn't save her from destruction in a fierce ice storm in 1947. Recovered by the RAAF in the eighties she proudly stands on display where one can just faintly catch the whistle of wet winds in her wires. As for the Black Cat, well since in the war the RAAF lost 145 and only 23 survived, the less you know about them the safer you'll be, unless of course you need rescue from any Imperial Forces . . .
Just good keen lads having some fun
Those more concerned with accounting than aircraft sometimes jokingly say that the only thing planes need to fly is money. They obviously weren't referring to seaplanes, because if they'd ever got their feet wet they'd soon realise that all seaplanes need to fly is passionate pilots. Passionate pilots like the three we found on the New South Wales/Victoria border in Albury; Jimmy, a seaplane mechanic extraordinary responsible for a gaggle of southern seaplanes, Ken, a founder of Alligator Air who opened up the far North and West to seaplanes and Mike, private owner of the most well loved Lake in the land.
Classic Airplanes, refers not only his maintenance company but Jimmy's love of flying for its plain to see that for him airplanes are classic. Suddenly dropping in on him and his wife like a leaden kiwi he unhesitatingly opened up his hangar, aircraft, family and life to us and before we knew it our camping car was securely plugged into his hangar and our hearts were charging with his whirlwind like aviation enthusiasm. We instantly struck a common chord in our mutual love of seaplanes, off airport flying and Cub like craft. His dream plane when a child was that goal that eluded me in Japan - a Super Cub on floats. The flying adventures he's had, maintenance successes and restoration work would fill up a book in which a crowning chapter might well be his loving restored, beautifully maintained and pristine amphibious Bird Dog on torpedo like Edo 2790s. Now that's a mans seaplane there with military power, strength and logic, complete with mysterious presents from Nam.
The sparkle in his eyes as he spoke of touching down on the Lake in the Bird Dog summed up all that is fine in the world of seaplanes. Jimmy is an active force in keeping Victorian and New South Wales seaplanes flying and while I was there Lakes were literally dropping from the skies in need of his skills. From talking to others it soon became clear - without Jimmy many would be a cockpit short of a windscreen and a float short of a boat. As all would no doubt agree Jimmy's enthusiasm for flight and seaplanes is infectious.
His successful business story reflects my Grandad's propsmithing as both enthusiasts left full time mechanics jobs to courageously follow the call of their hearts and answer the call of their friends to turn their hobbies into businesses for the benefit of the wider aviation community. Able to choose and pick both his customers and planes to fly Jimmy made the consious choice to accept only private customers and, after building and owning countless planes, to build and fly a seaplane. There's wisdom in that lesson for us all just as there aren't many mechanics out there as passionately dedicated as Jimmy. Fortunately he can't help lying with a grin to his flying, pathfinding camping car wife Caroline that "I'm not addicted to avaition. I can quit any time I want." Yeah right you are there Jimmy and right we all are for having you there too.
In Ken I found another kindred spirit. Flying in Japan I'd try to sushi into the Cub as many punters as I could and would often describe my addiction to flight in terms of colors. For if there's one thing the world needs its more colors, and more colorful characters like Ken. In Japanese it comes out much better of course but I'd tell them how the bright yellow of the Cub is the sunshine that catapults my heart into the serenity of the blue while I soar over the greatness of the green as I have to escape free from the grey of the cities, airports and those poor lost souls who guard them. Ken's a unique pilot who's twinkle toes in the cockpit of countless helicopters and seaplanes have flown him through the incredible feat of safely flying from the blue and green and masterly avoiding that soul sapping grey. Of his some 15,000 hours in seaplanes and helicopters 99% of that time - that's right nineTy nine, has been flying from the bush, rivers, lakes and sea with only a couple hundred hours were from 'regular' airports.
He casually describe his preference to flying seaplanes because "Operating out of a much more interesting environment than an airport was just more enjoyable and the passengers were always interested in what we were doing." As a man who has made his own way in the world building a successful seaplane company and associated bases Ken has a wealth of seaplane knowledge, skill and accum. He successful grew Alligator Air from a sunken 172 in 1983 to an outback institution with a fleet of aircraft that continues way out back taking them and bringing them back. Just as dog owners end up resembling their dogs so too Ken can't help resembling his favorite seaplane stead the venerable Beaver. "Ahh the Beaver - its a gentlemans' airplane, strong, nice to fly, no vices, almost perfect."
Mike & Biggles
If Grandad was right when he said you can judge a man by his bookcase then perhaps we can than rightly judge the pilot by his plane. In that case Mike is a shinning example of what a great seaplane pilot is - one who cares for his plane as you would your partner. His Lake is immaculate and certainly the most lovingly maninted and cheerished Lake down under. As prsitine as Jimmy's Bulldog. A number of people gathered to watch his Lake, and like the gentleman he is Mike patiently answered all questions, ours included. The key to his secret is his belief in protecting her, for she's taken his wife and him on journeys all over Australia. As he says Lakes are perfect for touring. In a pricless type of modification that many pilots no doubt wish for, his wife has made the Lake into a camping car of the Land, Sea and Sky complete with a bed and curtains. Now that's the sort of traveling we'd all love to do and perhaps by following that old pilot adage of treating her like a woman he's blessed with a lady who shares his love of seaplane flying.
On a final note from Albury, that little outpost of private seaplanes, perhaps we who love seaplanes also share a love of Jimmy & Ken's childhood hero Biggles, and his seaplane adventures. Now before you smile at men who loved Biggles in their childhood, just take a step back and recall how fondly your youthful heroes still live on in your heart. Never underestimate the power of the dreams of youth to control the minds of men I say. After all here look at us, having fallen for Tales of The Gold Monkey in my youth here we are on a seaplane honeymoon where the next stop is with the ultimate seaplane guru . . .