Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Light-sport floatplane that's a joy to fly
Lucky me. I’ve gotten to fly lots of light floatplanes and I get a huge smile on my face every time I launch from water or splash down in a lake. The sensation has no match in landplanes. Once you’ve flown a floatplane, you’ll forever look at flying through a new lens.
Imagine flying a mere wingspan above the water, safely…hopping over small islands and zooming down to the water’s surface on the far side, always landing directly into the wind, taxiing up to a dock or beaching on the sand or stopping to do a little fishing while standing on one float. Let me put a finer point on it: If you haven’t tried float flying before, you’re missing out on one of the truly fun things to do with an aircraft.
Two drawbacks to floatplanes are price—water-capable airplanes can easily cost more than your house—plus some loss of performance or carrying capacity. However, consider light-sport floatplanes and amphibians. They dramatically lower the price point, and some perform as well as their water-averse landplane counterparts in the LSA fleet.
Assuming you take the bait, where might you go to find the LSA float-plane experience?
Based in Sebring, Fla., Float Planes and Amphibs (FPNA, www.fpna.com) is an amazingly versatile light-aviation organization. They cater to floatplane enthusiasts, but the company represents a wide range of light-sport aircraft, including powered parachutes and trikes. Plus, they do training in multiple locations.
FPNA’s Capetown floatplane can be purchased for less than a hundred grand. That’s the base price, and you’ll surely find some accessories irresistible. Yet floats alone for larger GA airplanes can exceed that cost.
The Capetown is the FPNA variation of the Aeroprakt A-22, the original design from Ukraine. It’s distinctive on any ramp because of what appear to be acres of window, mostly clear, bubbled-out doors and a large skylight. Plus the fuselage aft of the cockpit is see-through. If you prefer to be surrounded by thin sheets of aluminum, the Capetown may not be your airplane. But if you like sightseeing from aloft, few airplanes hold a candle to the Capetown.
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