The Wrong way to get a Seaplane Rating (Part 2)
Last week I left y'all with a little bit of geeking out about the Lake aircraft a little teaser of the journey down to Texas to look at an airplane. Through Go Fund Me we had raised about 15,000$ and I found a GP3 or some people may know it as an Osprey. No not the military tilt rotor aircraft but a home built experimental amphibious aircraft with an Lycoming O-320. Surprisingly this home built amphibious aircraft was only going to cost me around 30,000$ and had a range of around 500 miles with a cruise speed of around 130 MPH burning around 6 gallons an hour.
This seemed like a perfect option for me given its experimental and home built nature I would be allowed to conduct most maintenance and could even source parts from more cost-effective alternatives than FAA approved sources. I contacted the owner of the GP3 to get some more details on the aircraft to ensure it would meet the mission and wouldn't require extensive maintenance or alterations if I was to purchase it. We set up a time to meet up and I bid for a schedule at my airline that gave me 5 days off in a row to give me ample time to fly this bird home. The Airplane was parked hangered at Bulverde Air Park 1T8, in Bulverde Texas about an hour drive from San Antonio Airport.
I was finishing an airline trip and flew out the same day after changing and grabbing my bag from the crew room. Now time to talk about what to bring if you are planning on flying an airplane extended distances. I like to use the adage to pack for the crash. I know that sounds gruesome and terrible but its better to be prepared to be stranded and injured than be without. When I mean pack for the crash I mean ensure you pack sufficient self aid equipment in the event of a crash. This is not a complete list and bring whatever you feel you need but I always ensure I bring a tourniquet, to help control bleeding, a flexible splint, to stabilize any broken bones, multiple kinds of bandages and gauze to protect any open wounds and secure the splint if needed. Make sure you understand how to use this equipment and have practiced with it or else it will be no use to you the moment you need it. Other than first aid equipment I bring an extra pair of shoes a few changes of clothes depending on the length of the journey and of course water, you can also bring a few small snacks that aren't going to melt in the heat.
I made it down to San Antonio around 8 o'clock at night and had a friend pick me up and we went and go wings and drinks to celebrate me buying an airplane. The next morning, we drove out to Bulverde Air Park to check out the plane. To say that Bulverde air park is a small airport is an understatement.
With only 1 runway full of cracks and grass with large trees at one end and power lines at the other end I wouldn't say its for the faint of heart or unfamiliar pilots. Now what you may have noticed is at no point have I gotten a prebuy inspection on this GP3/osprey, that was definitely a mistake that I was soon to find out in the worst possible way. I got to the airport and met with the owner who already had the plane pulled out and looking in pristine condition. I even got a picture of it; I was extremely excited and had a bad case of “get-there-itis”. After what I thought was a very thorough pre-flight and review of the documents, we decided to go for a test flight. It was an uneventful start and run up with no apparent malfunctions or anything to cause alarm. We taxied down to the end of the 2,890 ft runway and prepared for takeoff.
Smooth application of power and we start rolling down the runway and then the engine coughs once and comes back. At this point we have already used up too much runway to come to a stop and I don't have brake pedals on my side and the owner was content on continuing the takeoff. We then rotated and the engine coughed again and came back. At this point it was obvious something was wrong and the trees at the end of the runway were getting intimidatingly close.
The owner lowered the nose got some speed and retracted the gear and continued to climb. The engine coughed again, and we stopped climbing. At this point the owner froze on the controls, and we were going to clip a wing on a treetop. I bumped the stick to get the wing up to clear the tree and the engine came back again. The owner said, “we can keep climbing and keep it in the pattern we will be fine”. I disagreed and said we need to land in the field to the left, the engine finally quit at about 80 feet. At that point I took the controls and did my best to land as soft as possible on the belly of the plane in a farmer's field between two tree lines. We slid to a stop just shy of the second tree line and I immediately got out of the plane and verified the fuel select was off and checked on the owner of the plane to ensure they weren't injured. They seemed to be a little beat up, so I ran to the road to flag down help. Little did I know my friend who drove me to the airport saw us going down an immediately got in her car to try and find us. She was also on the phone with 911 to ensure that someone would be there as quick as possible in the event we needed urgent medical car. Luckily enough all I had was a bump on my head and I split my elbow open on the center pedestal of the aircraft.
The owner of the airplane seemed to have some back pain but was up and walking by the time the paramedics arrived. The aircraft was in pretty rough shape though. Due to the crash the gear somehow came back out and snapped off, the sponsons on the wings had ripped off into shreds through this farmers field. Worst of all though the main wooden beam/spar that ran through the aircraft had cracked meaning this bird 1 of 500 ever built was never going to fly again.
Obviously, I didn't buy that airplane. I called my spouse on the way back to the San Antonio airport to inform her about what happened and that I was safe and when I would be home. This event was a huge blow to the community when I told them what happened and that I was pretty sore from the crash, but I was alive and searching for the next plane. I widened my search increased my price point and excluded home built experimental aircraft from my search. I found 3 different lakes I was interested in an old 1970s lake 180 for around 80,000$, a mid 1970s lake 200 for around 75,000$ and a 1984 lake 200 EP with bat wings vortex generators fresh annual and even owned by an instructor who could teach me a bit about it for 99,000$. Which one do you think I got? I was looking into the lake 180 given it seemed to be restored but the owner refused to send me the logbooks and at one point super late at night the owner sent me 4-page text with religious rantings telling me I was going to burn in hell sooooooooooo, definitely not meeting that kind of person in real life. The mid 1970s lake 200 seemed to be a decent option until the owner sent me the contact info for the mechanic working on it for its annual and the name was “cheap annual” and I wasn't willing to put my life in the hands of a “cheap annual” kind of mechanic, strike that plane down. Now for the most expensive option.
I contacted the owners of this aircraft and within 24 hours they had sent me the complete logs digitally of the aircraft's entire life even from when it was in Canada, and I even talked them down to 95,000$. The only issue is it was all the way down in Kansas a 2 hour drive away from any airport with commercial service in the middle ofthe summer at this point. I sent the logs off to 3 different people with experience buying and selling airplanes to ensure the aircraft was safe and this time I did a pre-buy inspection. The pre-buy came back with nothing out of the ordinary except the tires showed some age. I was sold I knew this was going to be my airplane and I was finally going to be able to get my seaplane rating.
Come back next week and we will talk about the journey flying it home and even getting the training.