Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Maine (Seaplane) Event!

Is this the best, most in-your-face float-flying event in America?

Caught up in something of a busman's holiday, I'm shooting so many images that I rip through one 8 GB CompactFlash memory card after another. The wild-and-wooly action and ever-shifting colors against a background of pristine New England beauty make for an aviation-photographer's dream vacation.

This is Maine in all its September glory: a gorgeous, clear, breezy, '60s-cool day. Locals warn: "Don't go out at night without a jacket," and even during the day, without the strong sun, it would be a tad nippy. A glorious head of popcorn-puffy clouds crowns the sky: perfect meet weather.

Every couple of minutes, another two-plane heat roars off the water, throwing up huge gouts of prop-churned, float-pounded spray. This is the takeoff contest, nothing less than drag racing on water. The first plane to break free and clear of the chop advances to the trophy round.

Other planes taxi south just a stone's throw from the rocky tree-and-people-lined shoreline to queue up. Announcers call out the action on an ample PA system that charges the atmosphere with energy: If there were major mountains close by, the echoes pounded out by those big speakers would be ridiculous. But then, reaching the ears of 5,000 spectators in colorful late-summer clothes is no small order.

Call it Disneyland for float pilots, families and fans who love to watch webfooted birds do their thing over one of the more stellar bodies of water anywhere in America—Moosehead Lake.

The International Seaplane Fly-In is held annually the weekend after Labor Day. This is year 39. Number 40 takes place from September 9 to 12, 2012, placing Greenville, once a sleepy Down East village (population—1840; median age—53), firmly on the "must do in New England" map.

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