Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Islands In The Slipstream

Is this the best-kept half-hour getaway flight secret in the U.S.?

The next morning was cloudy again, so Leonard Stuart led us to some island spots. We met his brother who prepared a delicious fresh-harvested conch salad (pronounced "conk," this shellfish is a mainstay of the Bahamas) in his little restaurant shack on the beach, right next to a mountain of conch shells.

Another highlight: a visit to boatbuilder Ansil Saunders, an elderly Bimini-born bone-fisherman with world-record catches to his credit. A born storyteller, Mr. Saunders mesmerized us with his accounts of fishing and guiding Martin Luther King Jr. through the island waters of Bimini, when Dr. King worked on the speech that would earn him the Noble Peace Prize.

Friends Of A Feather
At last, my photo ops came. And now my takeaway memories from our stay in the Bahamas wear the faces of six of our group who made possible the photos you see here. These pilots shared their time, aircraft and superb flying skills with great generosity in the final (sunny!) 18 hours of our island stay.

Dan Johnson flew his CTLSi for the camera and as high cover. He also flew copilot Mort Crim, renowned ABC news anchor from the heyday of television news journalism. Crim had flown over in his Paradise P-1 (perfect name for the islands!) to film a documentary on Bahamas flying.

Bahamas daydreams at the Grand Lucayan hotel.

Water, sand and sky the CT way.

Tom Gutmann Jr. of Tulsa's Airtime Aviation (the top U.S. Flight Design dealer) flew superb formation in his float-equipped CTLS in the only golden-light period we had, the evening before we left for home. He also flew the CT as photoship when we chased Dan Nickens and Adam Yang in their SeaRey S-LSA and a SeaMax piloted by Richard Rofe and dealer John Rathmell, to a small, uninhabited island south of Bimini.

Nickens parlayed his 4,000 hours of SeaRey time to my great advantage with terrific formation flying. I flew in the SeaRey and the CT on floats, made several water landings, and find myself wondering, yet again, how to afford an LSA seaplane. Flying over water with floats or an amphib hull beneath you removes the anxiety factor.

You can set down anywhere. And taxiing in crystal Bahama waters only a foot deep is a special joy, trust me. Just make sure it's deep enough to "land!"


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