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It appears the long-awaited rewrite of Part 23 certification regulations is ready for prime time and the final rule is expected to be announced at a news conference in Washington Dec. 16. The FAA has announced “an important general aviation announcement” will be made at the U.S. Department of Transportation offices Friday morning. General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Simon Caldecott along with GE Aviation VP Brad Mottier and Joe Brown, president of Hartzell Propeller, will join FAA Administrator Michael Huerta at the media event. A draft rule was released in March.

The Part 23 rewrite is generally aimed at streamlining the certification process for aircraft and all the pieces that make them up and to allow integration of new technology (especially safety-related improvements). It changes the certification process by moving from a “prescriptive” approach to a more “performance-based” approach. But while the rule is expected to offer lots of opportunities for manufacturers to reduce costs and cut red tape, the agency is looking for some payback in the form of safety initiatives. The agency is expected to set standards to reduce the incidence of loss of control accidents.

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Cessna has scrapped the remaining inventory (photo gallery) of its 162-model Skycatcher airplanes, capping the end of the company’s light-sport program. AVweb has learned that the unsold Skycatchers, which the company confirmed in 2014 amounted to about 80 aircraft, were destroyed as shown in photos of an assembled but unfinished Cessna 162 being dropped into a recycling container as similar aircraft sit in storage. Cessna told AVweb on Thursday that it "utilized the remaining inventory for spare parts to ensure the current fleet of fielded aircraft can receive ongoing support. The company did dispose of what remained after salvaging usable parts." In response to questions about the decision, the company did not specify further.

The Skycatcher program launched in 2007 soon after the advent of the light sport pilot certificate, which allowed some pilots to enter or re-enter GA flying without medicals. LSAs, which are limited to 1320 pounds and other criteria, opened up what aircraft makers saw as a potential big market for new buyers. Major manufacturers such as Cessna and Piper developed light-sport designs, but sales never met expectations. Cessna delivered the first 162s in 2011 and had more than 1,000 orders at the time, but less than 200 were reported delivered. In 2013, Cessna CEO Scott Ernest said the Skycatcher had “no future.” Nearly two years ago, Cessna said it would halt sales of the two-seat LSA and use the remaining airplanes for spare parts.


image: Ryukyu Shimpo

The U.S. Marines have grounded their V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft based in Japan after one was destroyed in Okinawa on Tuesday, at about 10 p.m. local time. The Osprey was engaged in an aerial refueling exercise when a hose connected to the aircraft broke. The crew attempted an emergency landing in shallow water about 300 feet from shore, but the aircraft broke up on the rocks. The five crew members were rescued by helicopter and taken to a nearby naval hospital, where they were treated for injuries, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Local news reports say only two of the crew members were hurt.

The accident has fueled resentment among Okinawans who have protested about what they say is excessive U.S. military presence on their island and complained that the Osprey operations in particular are unsafe. Okinawa’s governor, Takeshi Onaga, told reporters the accident was “really outrageous.” The last fatal crash involving an Osprey was in Hawaii in May 2015, when two Marines died. The Osprey fleet, which began operations in 2007, has experienced four crashes resulting in six fatalities, and several minor incidents.

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An Amazon drone has made the online retailer’s first official customer delivery, dropping popcorn and a Fire TV media player at a British resident’s door. “First-ever #AmazonPrimeAir customer delivery is in the books,” Amazon’s Jeff Bezos tweeted Wednesday. The flight marks the launch of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone-to-door operation that has been in the works for several years. The company had ramped up outdoor flight testing this year at an undisclosed rural location in the U.K., where it had fewer restrictions on drone flying compared to the U.S. The first shipment by drone, made earlier this month to an anonymous customer, took 13 minutes to get a 4.7-pound package to a rural home near Cambridge, according to a Wall Street Journal report. 

Prime Air will begin with a couple of additional customers who live a few miles of an Amazon fulfillment center in the Cambridge area, The New York Times reported. The flights must take place in daylight hours in good weather, and the package weight limit is five pounds – which Amazon says will cover 87 percent of customer orders, according to the Journal report. The announcement comes about a year after Amazon revealed a 6-foot prototype drone and announced that retail deliveries are in “the not-too-distant future” as it perfects sense-and-avoid technology to allow the aircraft to fly out of operators’ line of sight and remain below 400 feet. The delivery this month puts Amazon ahead of companies such as Google and Flirtey, which have been testing package-carrying drones at designated research sites in the U.S., practicing tethered drops of items such as medicine and food from hovering drones. 



AVweb’s search of aviation news around the world found announcements from the Lindbergh Foundation, Hillsboro Aero Academy, Global Aerospace and Universal Avionics. The Lindbergh Foundation’s Air Shepherd program, developed to protect elephants and rhinos from poaching by using drones, announced its partnership with world leading drone manufacturer DJI. The operations are a collaborated effort with African Parks, the nonprofit conservation organization that is jointly operating the drone project on the ground in Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Hillsboro Aero Academy and Horizon Air have signed an agreement to establish a pilot development program, which will provide a tuition stipend to students pursuing an aviation career. This program is designed to help recruit new students into the program at HAA and provide existing students with an opportunity to fly as a first officer/pilot with Horizon Air following the completion of their program.

Global Aerospace announced the 2017 SM4 Aviation Safety Program, which includes new partners and a refreshed lineup of direct services. Now entering its eighth year, SM4 continues to expand by providing targeted subject matter experts and financial support to the aerospace sector. Global clients will receive both academic and airborne training to enhance airmanship skills and recognize and recover from unusual attitudes and aircraft upsets. Universal Avionics announced its Top Dealers of 2016 to be Field Aviation for North and South America (Americas) and Heli-One Norway for International Dealer of the Year. Each year, Universal Avionics recognizes two dealers out of several hundred in its Authorized Dealer Network who have achieved outstanding sales performance for the year. Both companies’ expertise and commitment to pursuing Universal Avionics upgrades were instrumental in their successful performance this year.

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This article started with an email from a reader asking whether a Cessna 150 would be a good floatplane. It morphed from conversations with experienced floatplane pilots about the 150 on floats—okay, but not great—into what makes a good floatplane, what to look for when buying one and what’s involved in putting floats on your airplane.

To keep the subject within limits, we’ll limit the discussion to floatplanes weighing 4000 pounds or less and omit flying boats—after all, we covered the most popular, the Lake Amphibian, in detail in our Used Aircraft Guide back in the January 2014 issue. 

Given all that, what are the criteria for a good floatplane and the variables to be considered when finding the right one for you?

Power-to-Weight Ratio

The first thing Alaska floatplane pilot and flight instructor Terry Dickinson pointed to when discussing his criteria for a good seaplane is its power-to-weight ratio. It has to haul around the weight and drag of two boat hulls that can withstand the pounding involved with going fast on the water and the attaching hardware. That takes power.

Adding to the challenge, on takeoff a seaplane has to transition from plowing through the water, with the floats mostly submerged, onto the “step” where they plane on the surface. To do so, the pilot initially holds the yoke or stick full aft to force the aircraft’s nose up and the engine manhandles the floats onto the step. The pilot then lowers the nose to just above level attitude so that the drag of the water is minimized and the airplane can accelerate to flying speed.

The better the power-to-weight ratio, the faster the airplane gets onto the step and into the air—and the less skill and finesse that is required of the pilot. 

The power end of the ratio is expensive—so while a great floatplane has a high power-to-weight ratio, a good one for you should have: Enough power to get on the step without requiring superhuman finesse; a takeoff length for safety in the available area and a climb rate that will easily clear obstructions where you are planning to operate.

The other end of the ratio is too often overlooked. Controlling weight in floatplanes matters because it greatly affects takeoff distance and rate of climb. A heavy, high-end interior is not a plus in a floatplane—Spartan is better.

Float size

Floats are identified by numbers that indicate the maximum amount of weight, in pounds, of fresh water they displace when fully submerged. A “2000” means the float will displace 2000 pounds. FAA certification requires that the total displacement of the floats must be at least 1.8 times the gross weight of the floatplane. So a floatplane on a set of 2000 floats can have a max gross weight of just over 2222 pounds.

There’s a tradeoff in float selection—the more weight the set of floats can support, the bigger, draggier and heavier they are. On first blush, that means using the smallest allowable floats for the airplane. However, that means more of the float is underwater, which adversely affects maneuverability and ability to handle rough water and stronger wind; it also means that it’s more difficult to get the floats onto the step, lengthening the takeoff run. 

Derek DeRuiter, owner of Northwoods Aviation, a seaplane operation in Cadillac, Michigan, told us of bad experiences in a Cessna 172 with the minimum allowable floats, a set of 2000s. When making taxi turns on windy days, it was not uncommon for the downwind float to completely submerge, making maneuvering difficult and risking capsizing.

Often an airplane will have at least two different size floats approved—doing some homework with those knowledgeable about the aircraft and floats is necessary before making a purchase decision.


Because of the side area of the floats forward of the aircraft c.g., they destabilize the airplane in yaw. Tom Wallis has done flight testing for numerous singles and twins on floats and told us that flight testing may demonstrate the need for the addition of more side area on the aft portion of the airframe to provide adequate stability and control. This is usually involves installing a dorsal fin on the empennage or finlets on the horizontal stabilizer.

Maneuverability on the water is important at slow speed in crowded areas and at high speed during takeoff and landing. Even though floatplanes have water rudders to improve steering at low speeds (they are raised out of the water for takeoff and landing), some airplane and float combos are better than others.

Smaller lakes, odd-shaped bays or operations on rivers mean that normal takeoffs and landings may involve turns while the airplane is on the step on takeoff or landing. For example, Seaplane Adventures is based at a location in Sausalito, California, where each takeoff involves a sharp 90-degree left turn. We made flights with company owner Aaron Singer as he graphically demonstrated the importance of selecting a floatplane that is capable of handling the conditions where an owner is going to base it. 

Most STCs for float installation include an increased gross weight for the airplane. That sounds great until you look at the numbers—the weight of the floats is greater than the gross weight increase, so useful load will go down. A useful rule of thumb is that, with floats, many two-place airplanes become single-place if more than an hour of so of fuel is aboard and four-place airplanes become two- to three-place. 

When considering any floatplane, look closely at the useful load to assure that the airplane will work for your needs.

Stall speed

Seaplanes generally come off the water near their stall speed and land four or five knots above it. Accordingly, the lower the stall speed, the less pounding the airframe receives at high speed on the waves.

STOL kits may be worth their weight, but we feel that each has to be evaluated based on how much useful load is lost versus stall speed decrease. We think VGs are worth the price as they reduce stall speed measurably and don’t add more than a pound or two to the airframe.

A number of pilots we spoke with highly recommended the wingtip extensions available for the Cessna 180, 185 and 206 in terms of substantially reducing takeoff run.

We’ve seen things go wrong fast when taxiing a seaplane. We, and the operators and pilots we spoke with, prefer doors on both sides of the aircraft so the pilot can get out quickly. That’s a shortcoming with most of the two-place tandem seaplanes and is one reason that the copilot’s door mod for the Cessna 206 is popular.

If you are considering a floatplane with a single door, plan on consciously making all your turns when taxiing so that the door is into the wind. If a gust upsets the floatplane, you want the door side to be up.

Being able to see what’s going on around the aircraft when taxiing, taking off and landing is important—especially when hitting objects or debris in the water can have serious consequences.

In general, two-place tandem floatplanes give the pilot better all-around visibility than side-by-side seating. Some floatplanes are blind forward during the process of getting on the step; minimizing that time via more power improves the level of safety, in our opinion.

Buyer Beware

You’ve found what looks to be the right floatplane for you—what sort of showstoppers should you watch for when inspecting it? First of all, we recommend that you never buy any airplane, but especially a seaplane, without a pre-buy examination by a mechanic who knows the type and who has not been involved with the aircraft previously.

Keep in mind that the cost of fixing up a floatplane that has been neglected or abused can combine every bit of the cost of fixing up an airplane and a boat—cubed. Start with the normal things you would inspect in a land plane, but be especially wary of corrosion.

Because there are no shock absorbers on seaplanes, the pounding of the waves of every takeoff and landing is transmitted directly to the airframe. Look carefully for cracked or broken structures.

Examine the floats carefully. If possible, make a test flight that includes two or three landings and then see how much water accumulates in the compartments.

Floatplane engines work hard and may run hot; that means a little extra care when looking one over.


So, with the criteria applied, what do we consider to be good floatplanes? With appropriate caveats of what’s right for you and that there are a lot of mods and float options, here’s what we like.

At the top end, the Cessna 185 with the 300-HP IO-550 engine mod, the American Champion Scout, Aviat Husky, Piper Super Cub with either 150 or 180 HP and 260-HP Maule M7.

For a lot of fun with smaller engines, in the four-place world (think of them as two- or three-place floatplanes), the Cessna 180 (stock or with bigger engines), Cessna 172 with at least 180 HP, Maules and the Aeronca Sedan (with a higher power engine mod).

In the maximum fun-for-the-money end of the spectrum—these cross into the “good” category with a more powerful than stock engines, although they still require finesse to get performance: Taylorcrafts, Aeronca Champs and Chiefs, Cessna 120, 140, 150, 170 and the American Champion Citabrias with flaps.

Rick Durden holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation, is a seaplane instructor and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It Vols. 1 and 2.

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Aviation Consumer magazine.

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I was doing one of my periodic office de-clutters this week and up on the far northwest corner of one shelf, I found some interesting artifacts. Like an archeologist dusting off pottery shards, there was the last of my Jeppesen binders and a stack of paper charts, some dating to 1997.

I can’t remember when I bought the last one, but it can’t have been after 2005, since none are newer than that. I’m not normally given to flights of nostalgia, but I felt a twinge of missing it. Without getting too gauzily romantic about it, charts and maps really are a form of art and if you doubt this, I would point out that in the bumpy transition to digital chart products, they look exactly the same as they do in paper. They just don’t work as well.

By that, I mean this: When displayed on a tablet, either an approach plate or an enroute chart, the tablet forces a conformance to the limitations of the technology. For an enroute, you have to scroll around and then finger scale to see what you need. On a plate, you have to do the same. Tablets work better for plates than for enroutes.

I was flying some approaches Friday morning using WingX Pro and even though I’m not completely current on it, I had no problem at all pulling up the plates and scrolling to the data. On a paper plate, you can scan the entire thing at a glance, while the digital version requires—count them—five or six individual actions, including the scrolling and scaling. Time wise, it’s faster to find a plate on the tablet, but busier. Paper enroutes were always a nuisance for having to fold them to the area of interest. On the tablet, you exchange that hassle for the scrolling/pinching chore. Big-screen panel mounts, like the Garmin G3000, have finally nailed this chart thing down, but it has taken the better part of decade to do it. Since I'll never own an airplane with point something in the price, all I can do is gawk at those systems.

I’d never go back to paper because of the convenience of not carrying around all that stuff. I feel like I'm fighting a constant rear guard action against clutter in general and in exchange for cables, chargers and mounts, tablets help with that. A little. On the other hand, in the cockpit, at least for plates, I can’t discern that I have a preference for either paper or digitial in the same way I have no preference for steam gauges or glass. By now, they look functionally similar to my eye. 

What I miss about paper, though, is the tactile qualities; the smell of fresh ink on a new chart and the peculiar odor of the leather Jeppesen used in its binders. It’s a pungent, musty, earthy smell redolent of flying in clouds and sailing down to ILS minimums in a way that never happens to me in Florida. iPads have no such qualities and no smell at all, just sterile pixels and Siri’s brain-dead excuse for a digital helper.

What I don’t miss is carting all that crap around in a big bag and the dreary process of leafing all the revisions into the binders for airports I would never visit. Remember how we used to do that? And we did it because there was a nagging worry that if every chart wasn’t up to date, we were somehow unprepared, sinning against the sanctity of FAR 91.103. The more I learned about how charts were made, the less I thought that.

I was arguing with myself about whether to keep some of this old paper for nostalgia’s sake. Or maybe a binder. In the end, I tossed it all to make room for a box of the GoPro accessories that now make an ascetic life nothing but a mirage.

Progress comes in all shapes and sizes, but it does not, apparently, offer provisions for preserving ancient leather binders. Pity.

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Many years ago while flying into MFR (Medford, OR) as a newly minted pilot from a non-controlled airport I was  nervous to say the least.I got a right downwind entry clearance but I absentmindedly entered an extended left downwind.  

Tower: "Experimental 123xy, okay left downwind will work just fine too, and cleared for left base to landing.”

Needless to say I felt as low and stupid as could be, and responded with much apologies to an unusually friendly controller.

Dennis Bellis



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