Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Searey LSX: SkyBoat Extraordinaire

Wings, webbed feet and wheels add up to the ultimate hybrid bird

The first clue that I'm in for a not-so-ordinary demo ride is when pilot Kerry Richter takes me through a departure stall (power on) over a small Florida lake. He shoves the throttle forward, then hauls back hard on the stick, right to the stops. Suddenly, I'm looking through the windscreen...straight up at the deep blue Florida sky. The deck angle is ridiculous. What's this, rocket-launch time? And the SeaRey just hangs there and never breaks.

"Okay, how about an accelerated stall?" Richter asks, and before I can answer, and showing no inclination to finesse the poor widdle airplane, he racks it into a good 60-degree bank, again hauling the stick all the way back. I'm grinning even as I warily watch the lake just 300 feet below. I'm contemplating a stall, involuntary wingover and rapid descent toward watery doom. But again, the stall never comes. The SeaRey hangs on, grittily demonstrating its solid aerodynamic chops without so much as a stall burble or a foot of lost altitude.

Richter laughs and rolls the airplane out. "That's all it does. We could sit here all day and never stall it. This is a very strong, stable airplane." Amen, brother. His cavalier airmanship tells me my host is either (1) a Top Gun wannabe bored stiff with the air show meet/greet routine, or (2) a guy who really knows this airplane inside and out.

The 44-inch-wide interior on the SeaRey features center control sticks, side-by-side fabric seats and Garmin avionics.
It's number 2. In the rush to get airborne, I hadn't realized that Richter is the designer and manufacturer of the SeaRey, and knows it better than anyone alive. And he's not done with me yet. Still at low altitude, he kills the power, again yanks the stick to the stops, and the SeaRey pulls up into a, shall we say, vigorous nose-high angle (I won't say we entered an aerobatic pitch angle—I won't say that), and once more, I'm enjoying the Neil Armstrong view of the blue sky.

But wait: There's more. When the SeaRey stalls, he kicks the big rudder hard right, and we're pointing straight down...well, 70 degrees down, which feels like the same thing. Fifty feet above the water, he rounds out and slides us onto the near-glass, late-day, sun-kissed water. And that's all in just the first 10 minutes.

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