The International Seabee Owners Club takes pride in the following articles on Seabee ownership, published in the magazine "Carolina Skies" Feb/Mar 2002 issue, written by owner-member Capt Steve Mestler. Permission to publish has been obtained from the magazine and the author.
*THE MARTY B*
The Seabee featured in
this edition of Carolina Skies is owned by Don and Steve Mestler of
Gilbert, South Carolina. It was purchased in April 2000 from the estate
of Mr. Marty Bennett of Griffin, Georgia.
Marty Bennett worked, for ten years to completely restore and upgrade Seabee N9042N. It took the parts of three Seabees to make it! Except for the intercom, gear position advisory system (GPAS) and other small additions, the plane is just as it was when Mr. Bennett owned it. He died of a heart attack a few years ago and in his honor the Mestlers named the Seabee "The Marty B" feeling that anyone spending ten years of their life restoring this classic machine deserved to have his name on it.
Bennett replaced every rivet, included all the right STCs and upgrades to make this version of the Seabee a step or two ahead of most others. In fact, the Airworthiness Certificate is dated March 1988 making the "Marty B" only fourteen years old. Granted the original Seabee was a "tad" underpowered and a "bear" to taxi in a strong crosswind, the addition of a steerable tail wheel, a 270 horsepower Lycoming engine and wing extensions, in Marty's words; "made it an honest airplane". I imagine the "Seabee purists" are cringing, right now, because there are some who insist on Franklin engines, bladder brakes, and locking tail wheels; a case of "you say tom-ay-to and I say tom-ah-to.
The gross weight goes up 100 pounds to 3250 pounds with the addition of the bigger engine and the takeoff performance is better than the original as well. Mr Bennett added sixteen inches to each wing tip in accordance with the appropriate STC to improve flight characteristics. Longitudinal step reinforcements were added to improve water handling and Cleveland brakes were installed to improve braking and ease of obtaining replacement parts.
The water handling characteristics are pretty much the same except with the bigger engine, take-off time is a mere twenty-five seconds even with a relatively heavy load. Four passengers and half fuel tanks pose no problem for the "Marty B". The reversible Hartzell propeller makes almost any maneuver, on water, a possibility even with significant surface winds. With a little experience, 180 degree turns are possible even when space is at a premium, within a dimension only slightly larger than the wingspan.
Due to the remarkable workmanship of Mr. Bennett, our Seabee requires no more maintenance than that required by an average complex airplane. By keeping the Seabee in fresh water, corrosion is kept in check. Yearly corrosion protection has been applied and has not been a problem yet. If, however, it was flown in salt water, corrosion would be another story (daily washes and rinses inside and out etc.).
If any of you are old enough to remember a TV show in the fifties called "Jungle Jim" you will recall the main character used a Seabee in the show. Jungle Jim would fight evil and save the damsel in distress with his trusty Seabee. A fitting environment for the likes of the old Republic RC-3. Steve owes his interest in the Seabee to that show. Don, his dad, remembers the unusual sound the original Franklin powered Seabee made when it flew overhead. The original Franklin engine had a large fan attached to the front of the engine, for additional cooling, which added an unusual undertone to the "music" while flying within earshot.
As far as the wing floats (sponsons) go, Republic and the FAA (the CAA at the time) came out with an airworthiness directive to strengthen the the floats with a side brace to prevent damage from the feared side load imposed by some water landings. Numerous AD's have been issued for the airplane but, surprisingly, not nearly as many as some later model airplanes, a fine testament to the abilities of Republic Aviation.
To say the Seabee is fun to fly is an understatement of global proportions. It is a blast! At times, one feels as if one is flying the Nautilus from 10,000 Leagues Under The Sea with all the levers and controls attached to every conceivable part of the cockpit. The engine controls are on the dashboard, unlike some that have the engine controls overhead to save on cable length and excessive play. It would be fair to say that after 53 years on the planet, each Seabee is different....way different!
The Seabee does take a little more attention to detail than the average airplane, after all, this is the most complex of complex airplanes. It has retractable landing gear, controllable and reversible propeller, flaps, 270 HP geared engine, it's a pusher (the torque and P factor effect is opposite of conventional airplanes) and last but not least, with all that this entails, it's a boat! What a BFR that is going to be.
The "MARTY B" is hangared in air-conditioned comfort at White Plains, SC99 and is very well taken care of. The Mestlers would not give up one minute of the wrench turning, hull and float draining and endless inspecting for any other airplane. It's too much fun!
Note... " No greater love hath a man than he give up all his leisure time to the inspection and maintainence of his beloved Seabee!"...especially if Dad is an A/P! (smile) John for IRSOC.
A SEABEE ADVENTURE
by Steve Mestler
My Dad and I had just finished our required training for insurance purposes after acquiring the "MARTY B" just a week before. He asked if I would like to go on a small cross country to sharpen our skills and enjoy our new-found freedom of owning a beautiful Republic Seabee.
The day was ideal; light breezes and clear skies. Our planned route would be from our home base of White Plains (SC99) to Newberry (27J) then on to Winsboro (FDW) for lunch, returning to Lake Murray for a splash or two and finally back to White Plains in time to watch the sun set behind the majestic Carolina pines. A good plan.
Due to time constraints during our training in Florida, Dad hadn't soloed yet. He didn't know it but if everything went well, today would be the day. We both showed up promptly at the appointed time and I was given the order to be 'just another passenger'! What? A lowly passenger? Well, OK. All duties were to be carried out by by the capable hands of my father. I was impressed. Navigation, communications and most importantly, flying the Seabee was accomplished with confidence and in the manner our instructor had shown us the previous week. It was truly a magical day and the Gods were with us.... my father soloed at Winsboro. It had been almost twenty-seven years since he was in control of an airplane alone and today he proved that he still had what it takes to make the dream of flight a reality. What a day! It was perfect and I had never seen him so happy.
Our lunch was finished over conversation and the excitement of what had just happened, was really setting in. We were all smiles as the 'Marty B' departed Winsboro, heading for the lake. One of the few times that day that I slipped out of the "just a passenger suit", I asked my Dad if he had put in the seven required hull plugs to prevent unwanted water in the hull during water operations. He replied that he had and I returned to the mundane duties of a passenger (yawn).
was magnificent,clear, smooth water with just a hint of windblown waves
to assist in our depth perception, on the approach. The landing was
a ten! This guy was good and I felt humbled by his skill. As we taxied
to the mooring, near my parents home on the lake, I felt that nothing
could more perfect than a day of flying the old "Marty B". I was right.
We stopped by the house only for a half hour or so, just long enough to grab a quick bite and enjoy the sight of the Seabee floating calmly, at anchor. Understandably, Dad was physically drained and mentally drained after such a busy day of flying, and he asked if I would like to fly back to White Plains. "Gee, I don't know. Let me think about it...ok? (You don't have to ask me twice. I love flying the 'Marty B').
We boarded the Seabee and taxied out far enough to keep the takeoff noise to a minimum in deference to the neighbors. We were out about a mile or so and I poured the coals to the engine. The nose came up as it normally does but did not go down as it should when a flying boat reaches the speed required to 'get up on the step'. Something wasn't right. Wait a minute! Everything was going perfectly when HE was flying, now I can't even take off, right?! What's up with that?. I aborted the takeoff and tried it again thinking there was something wrong with my technique. Same thing! Same thing! What in the world was wrong? Perhaps we were dragging part of the mooring or some seaweed had stuck to the tail wheel or some such nonsense.
I don't remember if Dad looked back first or if I did, but the 'Marty B' was sinking! The fuselage under the propeller was under water! Holy Cow! I made a bee-line to the nearest acceptable part of the shoreline I could find. It was a mile away, the longest mile I have ever traveled. As we beached, the thoughts of what had caused this ran through our minds. Did we hit something that put a hole in the hull? Did part of the Seabee let go? We couldn't have left the plugs out, could we? I waded into the 60 degree water to check the hull. Using the 'Braille' system I felt the hull where each plug should be. One...two...three... four...fi...What no five? The very last plug was gone! After much discussion an explanation was unfolding.
Like most accidents or incidents, this was caused by a combination of many factors, not just one. When the Seabee was pulled into the hangar after the last flight, the tail wheel swung around covering the last hole that should have contained a plug. My Dad remembers, as do I, the seller of the Seabee saying, "That last compart ment does not have any plugs because it is small and fills with water even with the plugs installed". My Dad thought the tail wheel covered this last compartment. It didn't. It covered the next to last compartment. My taking the "just a passenger routine" too seriously by not checking what I knew should be checked and rechecked. It turns out that, when my father put the plugs in, he counted the plugs that were left in the 'plug' can, normally two spare plugs. There were two spare plugs in the can but what we didn't realize was that one plug had fallen out of the can and rolled under the back seat, out of view! Two plugs left in the can MUST mean there are seven installed, right? Wrong. There were only six in the 'Marty B' on that fateful day. The water had filled the last compartment which, by itself, wouldn't be so terrifying except that when it spilled over into the adjacent compartments through the cable fair leads located on the upper part of each compartment. We had a hull full of water!
After some field
engineering, we pumped out the hull and got the 'Old Marty B' floating
again. Taxiing to a neighbor's ramp where we took out all the plugs and
the hull drained for 45 minutes! There was water in places that had
never seen water before. A normal departure and arrival in White Plains
was accomplished uneventfully.
Was this all a dream? A nightmare? It seems ironic to have such a perfect day of flying interrupted by such a dramatic event. Here, my Dad solos for the first time in 27 years, the weather is perfect, the Seabee was running flawlessly and our spirits were as high as they could be, only to sink to the lowest low in a matter of minutes.
As with any incident, this one served as a good lesson to both of us; Don't assume anything. No matter how confident or skilled or knowledgeable you think you are, don't assume anything. If you have any doubts check... and check again. Needless to say, we haven't forgotten a hull plug since and I refuse to be 'just a passenger' ever!
*NOTE: Don't feel bad Mestlers...It is said that most Seabees
have had their keels 'sharpened' and several members have landed on
water with the wheels down. Life jackets, anyone?...