|New Section on the website
We are starting a new section on the website; “Safety Tips”. It doesn’t matter, as recent history has shown, how much experience you have; accidents can happen to ANYONE!
There has been an inordinate amount of Seabee accidents lately that warrant a new look at how we can prevent them. The latest issue of “Flying” magazine addressed this very issue. One of the main causes (they think) is the price of fuel. Because of that we are flying less consequently our flying proficiency is suffering. Another is the never-ending FAA regulations and restrictions that frustrate pilots into giving up flying all together. Be that as it may, we are crashing WAY TOO MUCH! We lost a good man in Bill Shaver. We lost a good man in Jim Poel. We lost countless others from mistakes made that could have been prevented. I’m not saying all were pilot error. They were not. But we can do better. We have come close to losing a few members that are near and dear to our hearts and we would hate to lose them over something that can be prevented.
This section of the website will highlight the primary causes of “Why we crash Seabees”. A scary thought I know but it needs to be addressed. As often as I can I will relay safety information to you and how to prevent the recurrence of accidents prone to Seabees. For those of you who know me, I am completely open to discussion and constructive criticism and will modify the articles as necessary to provide the Seabee community with the best information possible. Your input is always welcome.
First and foremost, you must take an objective look at YOUR qualifications. Not your ratings or experience but your ability to operate a Seabee safely. How long has it been since you have had an instructor with you? How thorough was your last Biennial Flight Review, really? Was it given by a qualified instructor that has time in a Seabee? When was the last time you read the Seabee Manual? I know it’s a little sparse but it might just shake up the cobwebs and get you thinking.
Remember, experience has nothing to do with it. I have over 700 hours in the Seabee and 23,000 hours total time and there are times when I doubt my abilities. Especially in a Seabee! The Seabee is probably the most complicated general aviation airplane out there. How many GA airplanes have reversing propellers? How may GA airplanes have the myriad of systems that we have? None! We need to be careful.
Insurance costs are out-of-sight. The main reason? Too many accidents. Can you imagine what the insurance premiums would be if we never had accidents! Okay, I'm off my soapbox now. Tell me what you think.
|Water Landings with the Landing Gear DOWN!...
This insidious threat is the main reason we pay so much for hull insurance. We have all seen it. The Youtube videos of amphibians landing with the wheels down and as it progresses we all feel the urge to want to reach into the screen and pull the gear handle up for the guy! How many of you have come close to landing with the gear down? I’ll bet it’s quite a few of us.
The answer? Make a habit of ensuring the gear is up by any means possible. Obviously the main reason one forgets the gear position is distraction. Passsengers, traffic, water conditions, etc. etc. All distract us from the job at hand. These hull losses are almost totally preventable. What can you do? Here is the first tip:
>Use a checklist. Most Seabees have a checklist on the floor infront of the hydraulic pump handle. If you don’t have one, put one
there. "GUMPS" works too.
>Check that the red gear UP light is on. Light not on? Check the bulb. You do carry spare bulbs with you right? Or you could switch it
with the green light temporarily. - Install a Gear Position Advisory System* (I did and let me tell you, I’m embarrassed to say it has
saved my butt more than a few times)
>Get into the habit of announcing the gear position 3 times; once on downwind leg, once on base and once on final. Say it out loud.
>Tell your passengers to make sure they see the gear up for the water landings and the gear down for the airport landings. They like>Visually check the gear position out the windows.
to be involved anyway.
>THINK. Avoid the distraction trap! If you get distracted, don't land! Circle until you have everything done and under control. Some
Seabee owners put "THINK" in big bold letters right on the instrument panel.
This tip works for airport landings too so get in the habit of doing these every time and you won't ever forget.
Captain Dick Saunders, of International Seabee Club fame, had an article in one of the newsletters years ago that mentioned a situation that when the flaps were extended, the gear came DOWN for a water landing! His wife, sitting next to him, was the one that saw the gear down and saved his and her respective butts. Check the gear after the flaps have been extended.
*Relatively speaking, the Gear Position Advisory Systems mentioned above is a very inexpensive device and is easy to install. Most have STC’s for the Seabee so just install it, fill out the 337 with the STC and you are done! An aural warning comes on through the headset or speaker and tells you where the gear is. It even tells you if it is “in transit” (not up OR down).
A note from the Pesident, Mr. Cesare Baj, of the Aero Club Como (Italy) about gear down landings on the water:
Alighting with gear down
With some hull-type seaplanes, alighting with extended undercarriage does not leave time for a lesiurly escape. With Lakes for example, when the main wheels make contact, the nose is violently thrown into the water; the nose wheel cuts through the hull, and the aircraft immediately sinks.
With amphibians having floats, the situation is less dramatic: almost certainly the aircraft will overturn, but damage to people is generally limited or none. Here too, the aircraft burrows its nose wheels into the water after contact of the main wheels, pitches down, and overturns, but the overturning is gentler.
An exceptional occurrence of favorable factors has been known to preclude the overturning of the aircraft, which, after having been in a vertical position with the nose down, falls back onto the floats right-side-up. This happened to author Baj with a Cessna 185 amphibian, after the co-pilot, who was used to flying ground planes, instinctively extended the gear on very short final, after all checks had been made and without anyone noticing him doing so. The missed overturning was due to an exceptional coincidence of favorable factors, as was said: installation of oversized floats (EDO 3500s), an approach with three notches of flap, dissipation of all the speed during the flare with a contact a couple of knots over stalling speed, and the choice of an approach route with a headwind of 5 or 6 knots. Had the operation been carried out slightly differently, as was highly possible given the excellent general conditions and the surface, the aircraft would most certainly have overturned. Here is a case that illustrates that one must always operate to one’s best, even in apparently favorable conditions, which leads one into complacency and that checking the gear should be carried out more than once.
Because of the dire circumstances with landing in water with gear extended, the gear up check that is done during pre-landing check should always include not only a check of the gear lever and indicator lights but also a visual check of all four gear to confirm that they are up -- every time!
(Thank you Mr. Baj, Steve Mestler for the IRSOC)
|Glassy Water Landings...
Probably the most dangerous thing any seaplane pilot has to face is the glassy water landing. The reason is that your depth perception (your ability to see the waters' surface) is practically non-existent and the water looks so inviting! It's like being sucked in by a tractor beam.
There have been many techniques to improve your depth perception as you approach the water like; throwing something out the window (a map, paper, boat cushion) and use this as a "target" for landing. I'm not sure I would try throwing something out my window. It may go through the prop! Another way is to have the sun over your right shoulder on final approach and as you get closer to the water you will eventually see your shadow approaching the surface. I have personally never tried this. Let me know if you have and I will post your ideas here. Below is the technique I used because that is the way I was trained but feel free to use what ever works for you just don't be lulled by the tranquillity of the water! It can hurt you.
We don't do glassy water landings that often and I would venture to say we don't practice them as much as we should. Practice them on a normal day (some wave action on the water) a few times preferably with someone knowledgeable about Seabees in the right seat so he (or she) can advise you if things don't look right. If this scares you, good! You should be. As my old Seaplane Flight Instructor told me, "A glassy water landing is an instrument approach." It is because all you have to tell you sink rate and attitude is the instruments.
A technique I have used in the past for training purposes is to climb to 3000' or so and pretend the water is at 2000'. Set up a normal pattern and when turning final find that power setting that gives you 65 MPH and about 100-150 FPM rate of descent and hold it to 2000'. REMEMBER THAT POWER SETTING. Okay, now find a lake and make a normal pattern as you would any other day and after crossing the trees set the power you just remembered. The Seabee will take a little longer to make contact with the water so be patient. Keep the wings level and monitor the vertical speed for the 100-150 FPM target. Adjust your power as necessary to hold that 100-150 FPM rate of descent. A tip from Henry Ruzakowski is to fly close to the water for the first few times and just hold it above the water a foot or so at 65 MPH eventually landing after you feel comfortable with the maneuver. As you get closer to the water you can feel the ground (or water) effect and the rate of descent will be even less than 100 FPM. This is a good sign that you are close to the water because keep in mind that if the lake is new to you, you may not even know what the elevation is! The things that will hurt you is coming in too fast at a higher than normal sink rate with the wings not level.
CAUTION: The 65 MPH approach speed is only 7 MPH above a stall with full flaps so monitor your speed/power closely!
This is what Republic has in their manual about glassy water landings:
Vague isn't it. Now that we have had 65+ years of experience through other pilots experiences, we know specific techniques as mentioned above. Just remember, 65 MPH, wings level, full flaps, adjust power for 100-150 FPM and wait for the splash. As water contact is made, increase the elevator backpressure slightly to prevent the nose from "digging in". It will be one of the softest landings you have ever made! But practice these in normal water conditions first. Don't let your first water landing be a glassy water landing!
********Great idea from member Robert De Hartog in the Netherlands: Thanks Robert!
I have no experience on Seabees but I have been instructing on the C-185 amphib. To add to your tip of circuit practice. Depending on your location a flight with an amphib often starts from land. What we do at my flight school as practice for EVERY flight during transit is to go to the glassy water landing configuration, speed and rate of descent and decend for about 300 ft. Then we climb back to cruise altitude and continue our trip/transit. This has a number of advantages:
1- you get to practice this essential skill set often.
2- you already know the approximate power setting needed for that particular day and loading condition should you need it
3- you have ascertained that your gear is WATER UP after a take off from land (although this should be SOP after every take off on an amphib)
4- it really doesn't cost anything as you are already on your way to your destination.(Ed note: Robert brings up a good point; why not practice glassy water procedures EVERY trip you make.)
********Member J.R. Ranny mentions:
"Probably it would be a good idea to add to the glassy water landings piece in the Safety Tips section that glassy water conditions can exist when the water is not glassy. If there are swells or smooth ripples the water surface is about as reflective as if it was glassy so depth perception is poor to nonexistant. This is not theory or speculation on my part, it comes from experience. I was once somewhat startled by hitting the water when I thought I was still 10 feet in the air." (Thanks J.R.)
*********Member Brian Neidhardt offers this video of a glassy water landing. This is how you do it!! Good job.
(Quicktime© File: Play on your iPad or iPhone. Right-Click to downoad. Click to play if you have the Quicktime Add-on)
We are lucky in one way with the Seabee in that we only have one fuel tank. We are unlucky in another in that we only have one fuel tank! We don’t have to trouble ourselves with switching tanks, crossfeed and whatnot. Then again, if we run low on gas most of us don’t have another tank to switch to. Fuel starvation, either running out of gas or not managing the gas we have, is one of the main causes of airplane accidents. This would also include fuel contamination.
I remember a story my father told me years ago about a friend’s Cessna 172 he was flying in suddenly went silent. As they established a glide to a nearby field the engine started up again! As they began their climb the engine quit again. A glide was again commenced and the engine started up again. What the…! They finally made it to the airport after much gnashing of teeth and discovered that, after tearing into it, that the fuel inlet from one of the tanks was being covered up by a cellophane wrapper of some sort inside the fuel tank. Every time the trusty Cessna would climb it covered the inlet; when they descended the wrapper would move and allow fuel into the line to the carburetor. Strange. The point is, fuel starvation doesn’t just mean running out of gas. Be sure your fuel system is clean and in good shape.
Our tanks in the Seabee are bladder tanks and if fuel is in the tank all the time they will last a good long time. The enemy is dry air in the tank and chafing inside the fuel compartment. Dry air will cause the bladder to dry out and eventually crack causing leaks and unsightly blue stains on the ground or on the airframe. Chafing will cause a weak spot on the bladder and a leak will begin in short order. The good news is that they can be rejuvenated indefinitely (if they don’t have any giant holes in them) and quite easily and it really isn’t that expensive. About $700 at last check. So always keep some fuel in your tanks and, if you are so inclined, take the tank out and check for proper tank compartment condition. This is a BIG job so do it when you have nothing better to do and make sure you have plenty of ventilation as the fumes can be overwhelming. If you would like the tank removal procedure, click here.
The other plus we have with the Seabee fuel system is that the suction hose/filter inside the tank is HUGE! I don’t think any cellophane will plug that thing up. Along with that most Seabees, if not all, have two more filters to go through before the fuel gets to the engine. One in the wing root (the gascolator) and one on the carburetor itself. These should be checked at least every annual inspection and Republic recommends checking the carburetor filter every 100 hours. So check your filters as often as you like but at least every annual inspection.
A lot of Seabees are using these engine analyzers and fuel trackers with fuel flow and fuel quantity available at your fingertips. Very cool! But, they have their weaknesses; unless you have a very expensive unit, most have to be programmed prior to takeoff and the accuracy is dependent on the pilot (you) putting in the correct amount of fuel input before flight. It also depends on the accuracy of the fuel flow transmitter (some can be “tweaked” to give an accurate reading). Is it really showing you the correct fuel flow? Who knows? Until you get experience with your particular unit, you won’t really know. Moral of the story? Stick your tank EVERY TIME. Before each flight, put the dipstick in your tank to be sure you have enough fuel for the flight and use your watch to keep track of fuel remaining during the flight. You do know the book value of climb, cruise and descent fuel flows, right? Unless you have a monster engine in your Seabee a good conservative number for the average Seabee is about 14 GPH (I use 15 GPH as a round number for flight planning). This will likely be a high number but it’s better to err on the high side.
While we are talking about sticking the tank; you do have a dipstick for the fuel tank, right? If you don’t, stop what you are doing right now and make one. The dimensions are available on the Seabee website;
Maintenance (http://republicseabee.com/Files/Seabee%20Dipstick%20Measurements.pdf) or in Dick Saunder’s newsletter Seabee Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 6 dated July 1985. Better yet, drain your tank and fill it 5 gallons at a time and make your own measurements just to be sure. A 3/16” x 3/4" x 38” strip of wood will work just fine. Draw lines on it as you fill your tank in 5 gallon increments and there you go. Remember one important figure; there will be no takeoffs with less than 12 Gallons!! A red painted area on the stick at 12 gallons and below should be painted on your dip stick. Okay, your done.
You say, “I don’t happen to have 70 gallons of gas in my hangar. What do I do?” You surely have 20 gallons in cans somewhere, right? Fill and measure the twenty gallons on your stick then fly to a nearby airport that you are familiar with that has gas AND that you know exactly how much gas it takes to get there, fill the tank with the fuel you just used to get there and then continue, 5 gallons at a time, to calibrate your stick. It should be pretty accurate by the time you are done. Just make sure there is nobody else at the gas pump because it could take some time.
I know that gas is expensive right now but in the grand scheme of things it is cheap insurance and will give you peace of mind that you have more than enough fuel for your trip. I always try to land with an hour (14 gallons) of gas in the tank. So far, so good.
Do you keep track of your fuel on a flight plan of some sort during your flight? Good idea! I guess I’m from the old school but I still draw a line on a paper chart and circle the check points, about 25 miles apart along the course line, and write down the time and fuel used between fixes. (Okay, stop laughing) This has worked fine for me so far and I plan on doing this until someone can tell me a more accurate way of keeping track of fuel. If anyone would like a copy of the form I use (it’s my own design) just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly send you one. It is in MS Word format so you may have to change some things around to fit your particular Seabee. Plus it keeps me proficient at navigation techniques we use to use years ago. Remember the E6B and plotter? I have them. I use them.
How often do you check the winds aloft for accuracy? If you’ve been flying for more than a few months, you know the winds can change in an instant. Check with flight service (FSS) or if you are really lucky you have one of the ADS-B receivers to get real-time weather and winds on your iPad. Very cool. Keep track of the winds and if you find you are behind the flight plan, land and get some gas. Those ADS-B receivers even tell you the gas prices of nearby airports! What a world we live in.
In summary, check your fuel system, stick your tank every time you fly, have a flight plan with accurate winds and put enough gas in your tank to get there and then some. Fuel misuse should not be, but is, a major cause of accidents. Fly safely!
I don’t know about you but I don’t land on the water if I see consistent white caps anymore. Been there, done that. These indicate a wind speed of about 10-15 knots or more. However, I will admit to having landed on them and I use the glassy water speed when landing; about 65 MPH. Land as slow as possible. With a 15 knot wind you are only doing 50 MPH ground speed and the bumps after landing are tolerable. The Seabee is built like a tank and can handle almost any water condition. With that being said, your body can’t! You will need a kidney belt for anything above about a 15 knot wind that has been blowing enough to cause white caps. It is most uncomfortable.
If the wind has been blowing for a while and your favorite spot is right in the middle of the action, try landing in a protected cove or closer to the shoreline on the lee (opposite the wind direction) side of the land. Better yet, land at a nearby airport.
I will admit to the following story because I know you won’t tell anybody; I was coming back from Hammondsport, New York after the Glenn Curtiss splash-in one year and after flying all day the last thing I needed was big waves on my home base lake. Well, there they were. White caps and big ones. Having never landed on waves this size I said to myself, “Self, it doesn’t look THAT bad.” Wrong Lycoming breath! It was the worst ride I have ever had on a water landing. Once the hull hit the water I knew I had made a mistake. I was along for the ride. Nothing I did with the controls affected my path over that treacherous bounding mane! All I could do was yank back on the control column and hold on for dear life.
I have been flying for about 45 years and this was the worst turbulence I have ever encountered. It was so bad that after the landing I inspected everything under the hull, inside the hull and around the Seabee for damage. None was found except the floor under my seat was slightly buckled and the green navigation light crystal was cracked. I think the water hit the crystal (as the navigation lights were on at the time) and the cold water cracked the hot lens but I can’t be sure.
Moral of the story? Never land in conditions you haven’t encountered before. If there are white caps I would highly recommend landing somewhere else or going to an airport. Trust me on this one.
|One Wing Float Missing (on the water)
Along the same subject of Rough Water above, we have had more than a few Seabees sink over the years after a wing float has broken off or damaged beyond floatability after landing on rough water. The wing floats are NOT designed to handle a side load of any kind and, in most cases you should be able to keep the wing floats out of the water until the last minute during a normal landing but during rough water landings, the wave action might be such that it imposes a side load on the float from an approaching wave. Could be trouble.
Although, most times, not a fatal situation it is non-the-less an expensive proposition to get your Seabee back. Here is what Republic says:
This all sounds well and good but I’ll bet, in the heat of the moment, it would be tough to get someone (or you) out on the wing strut with the good float. But my question is; once out there what do you do? Keep your cell phone in a zip lock bag and bring it with you? Bring your signaling device out there with you? You do have a signaling device, right? A whistle, air horn, something that will get the attention of a passing boat. It is required nautical equipment when on the water. I just hope the water is warm!
I have never had to try this but it might be a good idea the next time you find yourself on the water with the engine shut down, try opening the door to see if you can at least lean onto the wing strut (with your seatbelt on!) then you may be able to “taxi to shore” as Republic mentions above. I’ll have to try it.
If you find yourself or someone else out on the wing strut to keep the good float “grounded” just remember to shut the engine down. If you don’t you could be multiplying your troubles ten-fold. You might also try, if you have time, to get the anchor (you do have an anchor, right?) out and tie it to the wing with the good float. It may just have enough weight to keep the wing down.
There is a mandatory AD for adding a support strut to the wing floats; AD 47-47-10. Most, if not all, Seabees have these now but if you are rebuilding, you gotta do it. It says:
“To prevent possible float strut failures during rough water landings, install wing reinforcing angles
17W21028, float strut brace assemblies 17W22013, spacers 17W22011 and lugs 17W22010.”
Republic Service Bulletin No. 19 dated September 9, 1947, describes the procedure.
There have been many ideas bantered about on how to prevent the wing from sinking in the first place. Keep in mind these are just ideas and if they have been tried, let me know. Filling the wing tip with ping-pong balls (really?). Fill the wing tip with foam, you know, that spray foam stuff (water proof). Sealing off the tip with a bulkhead so it is airtight.
Those of you lucky enough to have the Fiberglas droop wing tips have a fix already…they float! The late Jim Poel has tried this. He had the “droop-tip Fiberglas tips and got his Seabee into shallow water and took one of the wing floats off. He then allowed the Seabee wing to drop into the water and he said it floats! It may at least give you enough time to taxi to the shoreline or a nearby boat.
Moral of the story, don’t land in rough water. And if you do try to keep at least 40 MPH to keep the wings out of the water and try by any means possible to keep the good wing in the water.
| Hull and Wing Float Plugs
There are 7 hull and wing float plugs in the Seabee. Five in the hull and one in each wing float. They are 1/8 x 27 NPT stainless plugs installed with a 3/16” Allen wrench. Though not a life-threatening situation, forgetting the plugs will be an expensive proposition if your Seabee sinks!
There are probably as many different techniques to remembering the plugs as there are Seabee owners. Member Bruce Hinds has a unique fix for the plugs in that he welds a small hook on the inside portion of the plug that when removed, the plug hangs from the hull and wing float by this little hook. They are really easy to see from outside the Seabee when you do your preflight. When the plug is installed the hook remains inside the hull attached to the plug. Great idea.
I use an Altoids box with the wrench, plugs and an emergency trim tab locking kit in it. (I will talk about the trim tab kit in a later episode). The Altoid box is placed on the floor in front of the pilot’s seat. You can’t miss it. Upon installation of the plugs I put the box in my Seabee tool bag until I get back from the flight. After the flight I place the Box again on the floor in front of the pilot’s seat
I have first hand experience with leaving the plugs out. Yes, I am embarrassed, but if I can save just one of you from this regrettable situation it is worth it. You can read about it here. Scroll down to “A Seabee Adventure”. I won’t say anymore.
However you do it, remember your hull and wing float plugs. Some leave them in all the time. For the reasons mentioned above I don’t do that but I will leave it to your best judgment. Let me know your technique and I will list it here.
Member Bruce Hinds sent me this (correction) on the hull plugs listed above. Sorry about the inaccuracy.
"Hi Steve, Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanks for the new safety section, great idea. When you mention the hull plugs you reference the ones that I did. There is a picture of how I did it in tips and tricks, or I can send you others. My plugs are also brass, not stainless. The hooks are made out of braising rod and they are actually just hard soldered in. I drill a small pilot, careful not to go too deep and heat it with my little plumbers torch. The rod is soft enough if you need to remove the plug, just pull hard and it will be straight enough to come out.
I have a small palm drive with an allen head that I use. I leave that on the glare shield if the plugs are out and also lean the creeper on the left side main gear. If both of these reminder fail, you can see the plugs hanging down. I wish I'd thought of this, but the airplane had these when I bought it.
I have not done any research on the difference of brass and aluminum vs stainless and aluminum, but I really don't have any issues around the holes.
I do use LPS-2 liberally!"
(Ed Note: According to the late Gladen Robert Hamilton in his book, "Flying Boats for Recreation", Copper and its alloys have a galvanic scale of 3 when used next to alluminum (I'm assuming Brass is a copper alloy). But so does stainless steel! This number means it is eventually going to cause electrolytic (dissimilar metals) corrosion to develop. However, if much lubrication is used and the plugs are removed occasionally, it should not be a problem. I use stainless steel plugs and have for the past 12 years with no problems. Just keep them lubricated as Bruce mentions!-Steve)
|What if my Seabee does sink!?...
Republic put out a Distributor Bulletin on the correct way to raise a sunken Seabee. It is available on the Seabee website.
Go to: http://republicseabee.com/Distributors%20Bulletins/Seabee%20DB-42.pdf to find out more information. Just make sure you pull it out of the water SLOWLY and find someone who knows what they are doing. Most damage is done to our Seabees from the salvage operation and not the sinking!
|TrimTab Emergency Locking Kit
I think the weakest system in the Seabee is the elevator trim system. Too many cables and chains and gears and rods that could fail at any time. More than one Seabee (even a Twin Bee) has had an elevator trim tab failure. Imagine yourself flying along and then all of a sudden the Seabee starts to pitch up and down wildly. What the heck is that?! It could be that you just lost one of the elevator trim tabs. Given to its own devices, it will oscillate at the will of the wind causing the Seabee to instantly turn into a roller coaster! The reason? The threaded rod or fork at the trim tab control horn lets go causing the tab to vibrate unsecured. From what I have been told if this happens to you, just let the Seabee do its own thing and slow down and attempt to re-trim for a subdued oscillation. I would be tempted to find a long lake and land but I have heard of people landing on an airport after this situation.
There is an AD that addresses this very situation (AD 48-01-03) you can check it out here:
Also Seabee Service Bulletin No. 20 dated October 10, 1947 tells you how to change the bushing. It says that if there is too much play in the trim tab (more than 1/8” each way) you must replace the steel bushing in the control horn. You might even have to change the control horn! Make sure you have steel bushings installed! If not follow the AD.
Okay, about the Emergency Trim Kit; get a bolt, nut and two large washers and put them in your toolbox you keep in the airplane. I use an 8-32 bolt and nut with associated washers. Make sure the bolt will fit between the trim tab and the elevator. The description is listed below from one of Captain Dick Saunder’s newsletters from years ago and he describes everything better than I can:
I keep this kit in my “Altoids” hull plug box (on the floor in front of the pilot’s seat) just in case. So far I haven’t needed it but I am always checking the trim system. If you find you need to use it, remove the trim control horn clvis bolt AND the pushrod. The pushrod simply iunscrews from the gear box in the stabilizer. Put the parts in your toolbox until you get home to fix the trim system. If the routine above is used, remember you are now using half the trim normally available so you may need about twice as much trim (on the existing good trim tab) for takeoff.
By the way, check your elevator trim tab hinges too. Recently I noticed a little more play in the trim system than I was comfortable with and found that the hinges were offering more to the “play” situation than the fork or rod. After replacing them with the extruded hinges (MS20001P3) the play was totally gone! In any event, make sure you don’t have excessive play in the system. It could ruin your day. Keep the trim tab hinges well lubricated also. A whole bunch of water emerses them every time you takeoff from water.
WARNING: Do not use this procedure to get just one more flight in! This procedure is to be used if you are out in the "boony's" and need a way to get home to fix it. If your trim system does not meet the requirements of the AD listed above, DON'T FLY! Get it fixed now.
I’m sure most of you have seen the Youtube video of the Stinson that tried to takeoff from a dirt strip in Montana (I think). The problem? He didn’t check his density altitude.
The Density Altitude is pressure altitude corrected for temperature. Density Altitude increases significantly with temperature. Most of the performance charts are based on PRESSURE ALTITUDE Not Density Altitude. So we need to find Density Altitude to find out the real performance our Seabees are capable of. You can get your pressure altitude easily by setting your altimeter in the airplane to 29.92” and read the altimeter. But what about the DENSITY ALTITUDE? That formula is a little more complicated. There are charts the FAA put out years ago but are a little difficult to read. See below:
Or you could use your old E6B to figure it out. See your instructions on how to work your E6B or equivalent.
There is, however, a little simpler formula. It goes like this:
DA = PA + (120 x [OAT - ISA temperature*])
DA = Density Altitude (pressure altitude corrected for temperature)
PA = Pressure altitude
OAT = Outside Air Temperature (in ºC)
ISA = International Standard Atmosphere (15ºC at sea level. It goes down approx. 2ºC for every 1000' of altitude)
Okay, don’t get wrapped around the axle over this. It is really easy.
DA is what we need to find out.
PA is found by putting 29.92 in the colesman window on your altimeter and reading the altitude.
OAT is the temperature in ºC outside at the time. Keep in mind that the temperature on the runway can be significantly higher than what's reported on the ATIS!
ISA is 15 degrees centigrade at sea level at 29.92”. That never changes.
ISA Temperature is the temperature on a standard day at YOUR field elevation. Remember 2ºC drop in temperature for every 1000 feet? So to find YOUR ISA temperature, multiply your field elevation in thousands by 2 and subtract from 15ºC.
Example: Your field elevation is 1000’. 2 x 1 = 2, hence 15 – 2 = 13ºC. You would use 13ºC in the formula above.
PA = 2000’ at my airport.
OAT = 26
ISA at my airport = 15ºC – (2000 x 2) or 15 – 4 = 11
DA = 2000’ + (120 x [26 – 11])
DA = 2000’ + (120 x 15)
DA = 2000’ + (1800)
DA = 3,800’
So, our DENSITY altitude is 3800’! Almost twice what the airport elevation is. This example is not extreme. How many times has it been over 26ºC (78ºF) at your airport? Imagine what the Density Altitude is when it’s really hot!
Now lets look at the Seabee charts. Granted, the numbers we have are for a Franklin powered Seabee but if we use those numbers we will be safe regardless of the engine we have. My chart says that at my 2,000’ elevated airport on a standard day it would take 2,378 feet to clear a 50’ obstacle on a paved runway. On our example above at 3,800’ Density Altitude it would take 3100’! This 700 feet longer than at standard day. That’s over two football fields longer! On a 3000’ runway, that could be disastrous. Our Republic charts are designed with Density altitude in mind as they ask, on the left side, what the Pressure Altitude is and along the top what the temperature is. The Density Altitude is automatically calculated for us. See below:
Going back to the Stinson accident mentioned above, one thing that the pilot may not have done is lean the mixture prior to takeoff. As the temperature goes up the density of the air goes down so the mixture is not going to be optimum. Leaning the mixture could get a few more ponies working in your favor. I know that the Seabee’s with the Bendix-Stromberg carburetors may not need to think about this much but if you have a non-compensating carburetor (Franklin) you could lean the mixture for maximum power on takeoff. Consult your engine operating manual for specific leaning procedures.
Okay, that’s it. Check your performance before every flight and especially when the Density Altitude will be above standard. It really doesn’t take that long to do.
*******A valid note from member Rob den Hartog...
"Regarding your DA example Seabee pilots are lucky to have a manual that eliminates the need to calculate DA as we can enter directly PA + temperature in the table thus eliminating the need far a DA calculation.
Where I live we are BELOW sea level! To train the pilots for higher altitudes we do sometimes calculate the DA for an imaginary elevation and higher temperature. The resulting DA is used to calculate the reduced MAP you would than have based on the 1"/1,000 feet rule. You thus simulate the MAP your engine would get at say 2000 feet on a hot day and practice a water take-off whereby you only open the throttle partially until you get the reduced MAP. It is amazing how long at water T/O can seem to last for us flat landers..."
(Ed note: Good point, Robert. I have tried taking off (with a GO-480) at 4" MAP less than full takeoff power on the lake to see if it could be done. It can BUT it took a looooong time. This simulates, roughly, a density altitude of 4000' higher than what you are at the time. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A LONG LAKE! You might try it and time it to see what the difference is from a "standard" takeoff time. You do time your takeoffs, right? With an average load my takeoffs run about 25 seconds (You LS-6 guys, stop laughing).
The main reason for the VFR (and IFR) minimum altitudes is so we don't hit anything. Either a ground obstruction or another airplane. Minimum VFR altitudes may not be written in stone but are there if you look close enough. Do you remeber the minimum "grid" altitude, otherwise known as the MORA? Minimum Off-Route Altitude (or OROCA-Off-Route Obstruction Clearance Altitude). These are on every VFR chart the U.S. government puts out. They appear in the center of each Lat/Long box on the chart. This altitude ensures at least 1000' obstacle clearance and 2000' clearance in mountainous terrain (See map below). So if you find yourself deviating off course for what ever reason, you can find the MORA and know that you at a safe altitude if you are above it.
(Click on map for closer view)
I am not a proponent of "scud running" but if you find yourself in that positiion at least you'll know you won't hit anything if you are at or above the MORA (OROCA).
Another thing to look at is the contour lines on the chart. Even though the MORA may say 4,400' it may just be a small area of the Lat/Long box you are in. So if you are below 4400' the only way to know if you will clear everything is to look at the contours and the obstruction symbols on your route of flight through that Lat/Long box. I have seen MORA's this high with just the corner of the Lat/Long box warranting such a high minimum altitude.
Obstructions on a VFR chart are denoted by a small inverted "V" with a dot in between the "V" to indicate where the obstruction is. There are two altitudes next to the obstruction; one is in bold type indicating the height above sea level (MSL), the other is in parenthisis indicating the height above the ground (AGL). The MSL altitude is the one you should be concerned with as our altimeters are reading MSL altitudes. The map above shows an obstruction 721' above sea level (MSL) and 315' above the ground (AGL). Which reminds me, check your altimeter setting often. I usually tune in an ATIS that is close by or an AWOS to get the latest altimeter setting every half hour or so.
We just lost a Seabee Club member, Bill Shaver, from an accident with powerlines. No orange balls were on the lines and, as you probably know, these powerlines are very difficult to see even under the best of circumstances. Powerlines are drawn on the VFR charts as solid lines with the powerline tower symbols along the line. As you can see below, even on the chart they are very difficult to distiguish with all the other lines on the chart. When you are flight planning it might be a good idea to use a yellow highlighter to mark all the pertinent obstructions along your route of flight. I haven't seen anywhere that the powerline tower symbols represents the exact location of the towers. In fact, I'm sure they don't! So don't think the towers are where they are on the map they are not. These are just symbols of a powerline with many more towers along the line than indicated.
Other obstructions that can ruin your day are tethered baloons. That's right balloons! Those of you inland from the shoreline probably have never heard of these but they are a real danger if you don't know what to look for. Usually these are government installations that spy on other countries or for drug enforcenment. The balloon location is denoted on the chart, usually, by a restricted or prohibited area. See Below:
As you can see the cable attached to the balloon is 14,000' long! These are Interspersed throughout the country, usually along the coast.
This is definitely not the total picture as far as obstructions go. Every area of the country has its own little quirks so study your charts especially if you are going into some unknown territory! We don't want to be another statistic. I am open for discussion and welcome your input.
This is a very unusual situation and is described on the “Tips and Tricks” page here. Although not a real safety issue, I felt it necessary to bring this to your attention as it could ruin your day.
On the tail wheel micro-switch there are two nuts on the outside of the switch bracket that holds the switch in place. The first nut locks the switch to the bracket and the other is a “jam” nut to lock the first nut in place. The switch itself is NOT keyed to prevent rotation (at least mine isn't). As mentioned in the article referenced above, the “jam” nut loosened up allowing the lock nut to loosen as well. This allowed the switch to rotate and when the gear was lowered, the switch got jammed against the aft bulkhead and turned off the hydraulic pump as the system thought the gear was down (the pressure switch activated and turned the pump off).
A quick check of the micro-switch through the aft, right hull access panel will allow you to see immediately if it is loose or not. Check this at least every annual or anytime you have the hull access panel open.
As you may remember, the gear red light only means that the main gear is up and does NOT indicate the position of the tail wheel. The green light, however, indicates that all three gear are down and locked. So, If you find that you don’t have a green light upon landing at an airport and you can see that the main gear is down (by the indicative “cluck”), you can suspect the tail wheel micro-switch is the culprit. Landing on a runway will be safe but the tail wheel will take a slight beating. Preventing this situation is easy so check your tail-wheel micro-switch. You might consider landing on a lake that you know has beach parking and fix it there. It will prevent the tail wheel damage indicated above.
I have been thinking about putting an angle bracket riveted to the micro-switch bracket to at least allow the switch to stay in the same relative position if loosened. Perhaps there is some way to key the switch so it cannot move. Let me know your ideas.
The number one thing to do in an emergency is FLY THE AIRPLANE! As our good friend and mentor the late Jim Poel said, “If you keep flying speed throughout the emergency you will land right-side-up, if not you will surely land upside down.” So, fly the airplane first then deal with the emergency. If you have another pilot flying with you, have him or her fly the airplane while you deal with the situation but keep an eye on him or her as you progress through the emergency. Also, don’t panic. I know that’s easy to say but think about it, panic does no good at all! If you keep a cool head you will think more clearly and not be the subject of the “tunnel vision” associated with such stressful circumstances.
Remember the “4 C’s”:
Confirm the emergency
Communicate with ATC
Confirm – Check to see that the emergency you think you have is indeed the emergency you have. For example, let’s say you see the oil pressure at “0”. This may be a gauge problem. On most Seabees if you can control the propeller RPM you have oil pressure! The problem is with the gauge. Make sure the emergency is really an emergency.
Climb – If the engine is running, climb to a higher altitude. This will give you more time to work on the problem and also increases your radio range so you can talk to someone if you need to. It also gives you more time to find a place to land if it comes to that.
Communicate – Talk to ATC. Use 121.5 if you don’t have a frequency handy. ATC always monitors 121.5 so you should get someone to talk to immediately. Tell them who you are, where you are and what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to declare an emergency. This allows you to do anything you feel necessary to get the airplane on the ground successfully. You may have to fill out some paperwork but it will preclude you from violations if you happen to break an FAR on the way to the emergency landing site. You are in control after declaring an emergency! Tell THEM what you want. They will be glad to help in any way they can.
Checklist – Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks; Time to work on the emergency. Get your checklist out…you do have a checklist, right? Republic has a page and a half devoted to Emergency Operations in the original owner’s manual. I think they could have done a little better but keep in mind they were in the business of selling airplanes and not scaring off the customers! There is no emergency checklist that I know of for the Seabee but you can make one very easily by copying a checklist from another airplane and modifying it for your particular Seabee. That’s what I did. Sit in your Seabee and go through all the emergencies you can think of on the ground before you have to do it in flight.
Probably the most serious emergency you can have is a fire in the cockpit, er, excuse me, the flight deck. Grab your fire extinguisher and point the nozzle at the base of the fire and empty the darn thing. Even if you get the fire out land as soon as possible. There may be heat smoldering inside somewhere that may not rear its ugly head until after the fire extinguisher is empty and you think the fire is out. If the fire continues, land as soon as possible! A field, a road, anywhere you can land and escape the flames.
I can’t think of anything that would start a fire in a Seabee cockpit other than electricity but that’s a different story. I believe it is more likely to have a fire in the engine compartment that is conveniently located way in the back. If you do have an engine fire, pull the throttle to idle, propeller full aft (high pitch), mixture to cutoff, fuel shut-off valve pull (under the pilot’s seat) and begin to look for a place to land. Best glide speed is about 78 MPH. Do not lower the flaps until you are sure you can make the landing site.
I won’t bore you with all the other emergencies you can encounter, in fact I can’t possibly cover every situation. Please read page 18 and 19 of the Republic Seabee Owner's Manual for other situations that require immediate action. They include:
-Landing on the keel
-Emergency Landing (engine failure)
-One flap down (and the other one up)
-Bow door open in flight
-Water operation with one wing float (See Safety Tip above)
Just remember to FLY THE AIRPLANE FIRST!
I can’t think of a single general aviation airplane that has more complexity than the Seabee. As simple as Republic tried to make flying the Seabee sound, we know better. Especially with all the modern updates and modifications, flying the Seabee requires a clear mind and an understanding of all the systems and modifications made to your Seabee over the years.
There isn’t enough room on this website to cover all the possible changes that have been made, but we will mention the big ones that could possibly cause you some trouble.
It goes without saying that every Seabee is different. After 65+ years on the planet, each Seabee has its own personality. The instrumentation has changed, the engines are different (for the most part), and each owner has added the things he or she feels would make the Seabee better.
Probably the most important thing to do when you first get your Seabee is study the manuals and the aircraft logbooks to see what is installed and how the stuff works. You should also go through the Seabee Service Bulletins and Service News, available on the Seabee website at: (http://republicseabee.com/Maintenance.html)
Make sure the changes have been made to your Seabee. Also check that all the applicable AD’s (Airworthiness Directives) have been complied with (also available on the Seabee website at: http://republicseabee.com/AirframeAD.html. This was probably already done if you had a reputable pre-buy inspection done by a knowledgeable A&P. The AD’s, by the way, are mandatory changes. An IA (Inspection Authorization) should not sign off an annual inspection without all the AD’s complied with.
In this day of mass information available on the Internet, most information you require is out there somewhere. Get the manuals for your avionics and all the appliances installed on your Seabee. Make a big book with all this information in it so you can review it from time to time. Keep it with the aircraft records. You can also make your own airplane manual; take the Seabee Owners Manual and change it to reflect the systems installed on your airplane. Nothing prevents you from making your own manual. Just remember you MUST have the Approved FAA (CAA) Flight Manual in the airplane at all times. You can get a generic version that you can use legally here:
These are two different manuals. The FAA (CAA) Approved Flight Manual cannot be changed unless you supersede a page due to a FAA approved change and/or weight and balance change mandated by a 337 form or STC for example. The Owners Manual is a different animal. It was printed by Republic and does not need to be aboard the Seabee. The Owners Manual is a general explanation of the Seabee and how to operate it. The FAA (CAA) Approved Flight Manual contains the FAA (CAA) approved data for certification. There is actually more specific information in the FAA Approved Flight Manual than the Owners Manual.
We have Franklin’s, Continental, Lycoming and even GM engines installed in our Seabees. Franklin’s were the original engine installed but most have been modified to an updated more reliable engine. The operating procedures vary with your installation so the best thing to do is read your engine-operating manual for correct engine operation. Some engines are a little quirky. For example, on my engine, the Lycoming GO-480-B, the mixture control is rarely used (except to shut the engine down). It has an automatic leaning circuit that controls the mixture throughout the operating environment. Also the takeoff RPM is 3400! Climb at 3000 RPM, cruise at 2625 RPM. This is a little higher than most GA engines although the propeller turns at a much slower speed due to the gearbox attached to the engine.
Find another Seabee owner, either in person or online, with the same engine as you and ask him or her how they operate there engine. After all, our engines are required to keep our Seabees airborne! Take care of them. Change the oil and filter at least every 50 hours. If you don’t have a filter, clean the screens and change the oil every 25 hours. This is the cheapest insurance you can buy.
Hydraulic power - Electric pumps:
The original hydraulic power was, and is, supplied by a manual Powerpac manufactured by Electrol (now out of business). The pump handle in the center of the front seats provides pressure to the landing gear and flaps by pumping it forward and aft until the gear/flaps reach the desired position. Selector valves are located on either side of the pump handle. The flap selector is on the left (and is square) and the landing gear selector is on the right (and is round). Moving the selector does nothing until you start pumping. This could be trouble if the selectors were inadvertently placed in the wrong position and pumping has ensued. During the cockpit check, I make sure the selectors are in the correct position prior to doing anything else. The Powerpac is truly a work of art. Don’t open it up unless you know exactly what you are doing.
On most, if not all Seabees, if the selectors are forward, DOWN is selected. Aft is the UP position. There is a “neutral” position on the flap selector that allows locking the flaps in position. I know of one Seabee where this is not the case; the owner put the selectors on the front panel! Similar to the modern retractable aircraft of today. (See “Submitting changes to the FAA” below)
Most Seabees today have an electric hydraulic pump to aid in landing gear operation. These are very reliable and relieve the pilot of the distracting task of pumping like crazy after takeoff and before landing. In my mind these are a safety-related item as distraction is a major cause of accidents/incidents. Just be sure that the selector (either gear or flaps) is in the position you want before takeoff AND landing. The flaps are normally extended using the manual pump handle as the electric pump extends them too fast.
Before starting the engine, I pressurize the hydraulic system with the manual pump handle until substantial resistance is felt to insure the gear, especially the tail wheel, is down and locked. There has been more than one instance where the tail wheel has collapsed during taxi or takeoff because the tail wheel actuator, that locks the tail wheel down, wasn’t quite over center. This may not seem like a safety issue but it could potentially cause more damage than you think particularly on landing.
Maintaining the hydraulic system is fairly simple; just keep the fluid level up to the bottom of the screen just inside the filler opening. I do change the fluid in the reservoir during every Annual Inspection. Keep a bottle (at least a pint) of hydraulic fluid (5606) in the cabin so you can fill the reservoir if you are ever in flight and find the gear won’t come down. If any leaks are noticed prior to flight, get it fixed! The leaks are most noticeable on the ground when the hull plugs are out. You can’t miss them.
Republic mentions an “optional” instrument panel available on the then new Seabees that wouldn’t be suitable in today’s environment. At the time they were state-of-the-art but today they wouldn’t fair very well in IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions). Can you imagine if they had GPS back then? They would have thought you were from another planet! Now GPS is the norm. Almost everyone has at least a hand-held unit and no one gets lost anymore.
Needless to say the instrumentation on our Seabees is far superior to its original setup. Most Seabees have at least the basic VFR package and IFR packages are not uncommon. The new glass packages are making a strong showing and are very impressive. But a panel is only as good as the operator using it. Just like a computer, GIGO (garbage in – garbage out) is the rule. Make sure you know how to operate the instrumentation provided in your Seabee. Again, most manuals for every conceivable avionics unit is available online for free download.
AOPA had an article a few months back that addressed a growing problem; basic airmanship is suffering due to the “glass” panel syndrome. The students nowadays are so dependent on the glass they forget, or were never trained, to fly the airplane by the seat-of-their-pants. When was the last time you flew partial panel or with the “glass” off completely? Fly a traffic pattern with basic instruments only? For safety, try it with someone with you for a little practice. We in aviation need to get back to the basics. There is a staggering accident rate for lack of basic flying skills when the “bells and whistles” are not there.
I am proud to say that I am associated with a group of Seabee pilots that I would fly anywhere with. If you have been flying a Seabee for a few years, you know about seat-of the-pants flying I am sure. In order to make a Seabee do what you want, you must “feel” the airplane. You know what I mean. If you don’t you will in a year or so of consistent flying.
To fly a Seabee legally, you must have a tail wheel endorsement in your pilot logbook. If you have no tail wheel experience as of April 15, 1991 you need this. It doesn’t take long to do but finding a qualified instructor may be the hardest part. Who flies tail wheel airplanes anymore? Well, we do! Check the Seabee website for a list of instructors with experience in Seabees at:
Having flown quite a few different tail wheel airplanes, I think the Seabee is quite docile. A crosswind can give you challenge but the overall character is better than history has presented. The key, as in any tail wheel airplane, is to keep flying it all the way to the chocks.
Tail wheel flying is ten times the challenge of its tricycle counterpart. The thing that makes a tail wheel airplane challenging is that the CG (Center of Gravity) is aft of the main gear and if the CG is allowed to wander off to the side during a takeoff or landing a ground loop could be moments away. The only way to counteract this condition is the prudent and timely use of corrective rudder control. To effectively fly a tail wheel airplane, rudder control is imperative. On takeoff the rudder should be “dancing”; correcting for the slightest drift from the centerline of the runway. If you keep your focus out front and about halfway down the runway, you will notice the slightest change in direction immediately.
Keep in mind that you are sitting forward of the main gear! How many tail wheel airplanes can say that. It may not be that noticeable, but the “feeling” when flaring is opposite that of a conventional tail wheel airplane. When you flare in a conventional airplane the “G” force is slightly negative. In the Seabee it’s positive so it “feels” different.
One advantage the Seabee has over other tail wheel airplanes is that the propeller blast gives you almost instantaneous rudder (and elevator) control due to the pusher propeller arrangement. If you are new to the Seabee, taxi down the runway or taxiway trying to keep the Seabee precisely on the centerline at various speeds. Not too fast though. Make sure you have an instructor or experienced Seabee pilot with you when you try this. If your runway is nice and long and it’s not too busy, try a high-speed test down the runway keeping the Seabee EXACTLY on the runway centerline. After the tail comes up reduce the power to “abort” the takeoff and KEEP IT ON THE CENTERLINE! The change in torque, airflow and P-factor will require quick rudder corrections to keep a straight track. If you can keep it on the runway centerline you are more than halfway there!
Don’t forget the other controls as you taxi and takeoff however. A slight aileron correction into the wind may be required to keep the wings level as the takeoff commences reducing the aileron input as the Seabee lifts off. Track the runway centerline to pattern-turning altitude and, once airborne, the Seabee is just another airplane! Well, not really, but it is controlled conventionally.
The Seabee sits rather flat as compared to other tail wheel airplanes and consequently the landings are not as dramatically nose up as other types especially in a full stall configuration. As the Seabee approaches the runway, start the flare and power reduction about 5 feet over the runway. Keep a flat, wings level, attitude and “feel” for the runway. The mains will touch and the tail wheel will follow shortly afterward keeping the wings level with the ailerons. Use just enough aileron to keep the wings level and no more. All the while maintaining a straight track with the rudder!
There is one anomaly that reared its ugly head not too long ago; as the landing gear struts collapse after touchdown they seem to collapse at different rates. This causes the Seabee to tilt one way or the other and it does affect the track of the airplane in relation to the runway. I remember one instance when flying with my dad (he was flying) about ten years ago when, upon landing, the Seabee started a turn to the left for no apparent reason. He immediately said, “No! Don’t do that!” I said, “I’m not doing anything”. I couldn’t help but push the rudder the opposite way to keep things on the runway. It was instinctive on my part. After stopping the Seabee and thinking about it for a while we determined that the struts were the culprits. The low strut on landing allows the Seabee to “pivot” slightly around it causing a turn in its direction. Again the judicial use of ailerons on landing would have prevented this situation.
Landing a tail wheel airplane is like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time - along with jumping up and down! Once the coordination of the controls is mastered and the runway track is centered, you will be good to go! There is no better satisfaction than flying a Seabee solo for the first time. It is a constant challenge but that’s what makes it fun!
I believe that every Seabee has a reversing propeller. If not, I apologize. The first propellers to be installed on the Seabee were “ground adjustable”. Set the angle on the ground and that’s what you lived with until you changed it on the ground later on. As the Seabee design progressed, it was determined that a constant-speed, reversible propeller (a Republic Option during the purchase process) would improve the handling of the Seabee on the water. I have heard of people using it on the ground but that doesn't happen very often. These propellers are far superior to the earlier models and allow for a very gentle creeping approach to any dock or buoy.
Republic initially restricted the reversing RPM to 1750 and only on the ground due to the engine design but with the bigger engines and a Hartzell propeller there is no limit that I know of. Just remember, when using reverse make sure you hold on to or, even better, close and latch the doors. If you don’t the doors will slam open at a horrendous rate possibly causing damage to the door. Don’t ask me how I know.
One important critical component required on the Franklin reverser installation is the installation of the reverse valve return spring. Lycoming’s have them too but it was so critical on the Franklin’s that they put out a Service Bulletin No. 21 and AD 47-47-11 to make sure the spring was installed. Make sure it is safetied on both ends of the spring as well. Check them here:
Dick Sauders also put out a Seabee Club Newsletter on it available here:
I am told without the spring or if it fails in flight the propeller could go into reverse while airborne. A tragedy will surely result.
To use the reverse feature, simply set the engine RPM to 1000 as you approach the dock and don’t touch it again, unlock the reverse lever and now control your forward speed with the reverse lever only. Begin slowing your approach sooner rather than later to give you more time to correct for any wind or wave conditions. When you are a good distance from the dock, put your trow-able cushion around the bow cleat to prevent damage to the nose. A throw-able cushion is another required piece of nautical equipment.
It is always better, and some would say mandatory, to approach any dock into the wind. Good idea! Unless you have a “crew” waiting for you at the dock to help stabilize the Seabee, it will surely start to turn into the wind when docked possibly causing damage to the wing floats or fuselage. Remember to shut down the engine in forward thrust! Lock the reverse lever then shut the engine down.
Before you pull up to a dock the first time it’s a good idea to practice approaching a buoy, isolated island or even a float on a quiet part of your lake a few times. If you are docking on a tidal waterway you must also account for current. This could complicate things tremendously. The current will surely be stronger than the wind effect unless the wind is blowing pretty hard. If you can, time it so you are there at ebb tide (low or high tide).
Check for the reverse spring installation, keep your doors shut, practice reversing, and approach the docking point slowly. That’s all there is to it.
Aft CG-Ballast Requirements:
This section may not apply to everyone but I would guess that most Seabee’s require a ballast (weight) in the forward part of the airplane when flying by yourself or if two really light-weight pilot’s occupy the front seats. You have to check your particular FAA (CAA) approved flight manual, in the weight and balance section, to see how much if any is required to get the CG within the flight envelope.
I know I need 75 pounds of lead in front of the front seat to have the CG inside the 118.3 to 111.5 range. 111.5 being the forward CG limit station and 118.3 the aft limit station. I use a canvas bag full of lead (75 lb.) and put it in the Seabee when I fly by myself.
The reason for this? It may sound trite but if you get yourself into a stall the aft CG could cause you to be unable to recover from it. With the stall-spin syndrome still alive and well in the general aviation community, we need to use anything we can to our advantage. One way is to make sure your CG is inside the “CG envelope” is to use ballast if it is needed. Now, with that said, airplanes fly more efficiently with an aft CG. Just use enough ballast to get the CG inside the AFT limit and you will be safe.
I know of some Seabee owners that put two batteries up front (hooked up in parallel or they have a switching arrangement) to correct for the aft CG issue. If you are lucky enough, perhaps the installed equipment has the CG in the right place to begin with. I know of another guy that keeps more stuff under the floor that an aft CG is never a problem. I don’t know if I would do that though.
So keep a bag of lead next to your Seabee and check the weight and balance! By the way there are Seabee pilots smarter than me that have put the weight information for their Seabee into a computerized spreadsheet and all the calculations are done for you! All you have to do is plug in the weight of the passengers, fuel, oil and baggage. Really cool. If you want a copy, just e-mail me and I’ll send you one. Keep in mind though, you will have to change the empty weight and CG location in the spreadsheet to match your Seabee.
Or, if you are one of those smarty-pants, you could make one yourself but get someone else to check it for errors just to make sure it is correct.
The main reason we buy Seabees is because they are amphibians! They are a lot of fun and very stout. Along with the versatility of the Seabee comes a responsibility that is multiplied four-fold over its general aviation counterparts (non-amphibious airplanes). All amphibians share this responsibility.
When you decide to put wheels on a seaplane, it increases your versatility but also increase the amount of things that can go wrong (see "landing with the gear down on water" above). Not only do you have to know the “airplane” rules but you need to know the “boating” rules as well. Do you have a signaling device in your Seabee? A whistle, horns or flares? One of these is required equipment when you are on the water. Do you have a life vest for each occupant? Required. Most of the airplane rules are similar to the boating rules such as right-of-way, navigation lights, etc. But these issues still complicates things for us amphibian pilots.
Have you ever seen the look on the boater’s faces as you pass by? Most are very friendly but some look at you as if you were an alien space ship. They don’t know what to think. All the latter knows is that you are taking up space he thought was reserved just for him. I give these guys a WIDE berth. Along with that we have the issue of noise. Most Seabees have much more power than any speedboat on the water consequently they are loud and noise is one of the main reasons we have so much trouble keeping lakes open to seaplanes. I try not to takeoff from the lake before 10:00 am just because of the noise and if I have to takeoff early I taxi away from the houses and takeoff in the middle of the lake. Just another amphibious fun fact.
|Submitting changes to the FAA (USA only):
This may not seem safety related but any changes you make to your Seabee could affect the structural integrity of your airframe. That being said it used to be, not so long ago, that in order to make a change to the Seabee (or any other certified airplane) all you had to do was get an A&P mechanic to oversee your modification, fill out the 337 form, have an IA sign it as airworthy and send it to the FAA for approval. Once the 337 form was returned and, hopefully, approved you could put the 337 in the aircraft records and you are done.
Now the procedures have changed. In this litigious world the FAA is very reluctant to sign anything. You must first submit your 337 and any supporting data to the FAA have them approve the installation and only then can you start cutting holes in your Seabee.
My personal experience with this procedure has been nothing short of frustrating. Due to the paranoid nature of the FAA today, getting a signature on your 337 is practically impossible. Their answer is to have a DER (Designated Engineering Representative) inspect the paperwork, make changes, issue an 8110 form and hopefully approve your change with a minimum amount of delay BEFORE the FAA will stamp “approved” on the 337 form. This could take quite a while. My point is this; if you want to make changes to your airplane, be ready for red tape like you have never seen before.
The easy way to get a change made is to see if there is an STC (Supplemental Type Certificate) for the modification you want. Someone else has already done the FAA paperwork and gone through the red tape process for an approval for installation, good on all Seabees, and then the STC holder usually charges a premium for the right for you to install it in your airplane. The owner’s paperwork is minimal with an STC however. Fill out a 337, get an A&P to sign the 337, get an IA to sign the 337, include the STC, send it to the FAA and they will send you a “stamped” approved copy of the 337 form very quickly. Be sure to include the approved 337 AND the STC paperwork in the aircraft records. Do not fly your airplane until you have the approved (signed) copy of the 337 form from the FAA included in your aircraft records!
Even with an existing 337 form from a previous installation (supporting data), the FAA doesn’t see that installation as a valid reason for you to change your Seabee. Every request for a change is taken on a “per-case” basis. As an example; let’s say you wanted to install a landing light in your Seabee. Even though most of the Seabees flying today have some sort of landing light arrangement, the FAA looks at your request as the first time this has ever been tried! I know of no wings falling off a Seabee due to a landing light installation. Do you?
It is my opinion that the FAA is almost trying to suppress the general aviation community for some reason. Along with the high fuel prices, insurance premiums and the other high costs we have incurred lately, the FAA has done us no favors. If I’m not mistaken, the Canadians have the right idea on modifying older airplanes; if the company (i.e.: Republic) doesn’t provide support anymore or are out of business, you can make the changes you want as long as it complies with normal “Acceptable Methods, Techniques and Practices”. What a concept!
Anyway, just be sure the paperwork is done correctly before you make changes to your Seabee. Most A&P’s or IA’s are more than willing to help you with it and it will make your life a lot less frustrating.
|My Landing Gear won’t come down on the water!
I have had my Seabee for thirteen years now and I just found out something new; When you are traveling through the water at more than about 8 knots, when you put the gear down with the electric hydraulic pump, the resistance of the gear through the water prevents the gear from coming down completely as the pressure switch will “sense” the cut-off limit and stop the pump. You will get no green light on the panel indicating the gear is down.
What to do!? First, slow down or even stop on the water if you have to. Try the electric pump again. The gear will most likely lock down. Or you could slow down and try the manual pump handle, as the hydraulic pressure switch does not affect its use.
Each Seabee will be slightly different I am sure but just be aware that this could happen and, as happened to me, at the most inopportune time (trying to ramp in a 30 knot wind from the tail of the Seabee!).
As a footnote, my pressure switch is set to turn on (switch closed) below 670 psi and turn off (switch open) at 900 psi. Your pressures may be different.
|A few tips from member, Captain Ed Tello (E.T.), thanks E.T.!
Keep your landing gear struts pumped up:
If your main landing gear struts are bottomed out, the tires will hit the back of your wing strut when you raise the gear, and more than likely will prevent the unlock from engaging. Your gear will bleed to a partially gear down position.
Water Rudder damage potential:
When using reverse on the water, make sure your rudder pedals are straight. Otherwise, you can break the water rudder off. If you feel the water rudder going out of center/neutral, come out of reverse momentarily to reduce the forces, neutralize the rudders, then go back into reverse.
(Ed note: There is a modification you can make that mitigates the damage potential to the water rudder; attach a 1/16” cable to the upper aft end of the water rudder and run it back to the tail tie-down loop under the air rudder. Make it long enough to allow the water rudder to reach full deflection in each direction, then add a weak steel spring (like the one on your screen door) to the tie-down loop and attach the other end to cable (with a swage fitting). Attach the spring so that is keeps the cable taught (not tight). The spring will then extend as you deflect the water rudder left and right and if allowed to reach the extreme, the cable will prevent the water rudder from snapping completely off. See below.)
High wind taxiing on land:
When taxing in high wind conditions, it's a good idea to have your bow door open, to act as a small front sail. Also, it is possible for the tail to raise all the way until the nose touches the ground if using too much power to turn! DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT cut the power quickly. The tail will come down so hard that you will cause major damage. Fly the tail down with power. To avoid this situation, have the elevator control all the way back in order to hold the tail down on high winds conditions.
|Balked Landing/Go Around:
The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) has issued a letter explaining the latest "gotcha" in the General Aviation accident statistics. Read the letter here.
The procedure for a Balked Landing (rejected landing before or after touchdown) or Go-Around is simply making the decision to go around, adding sufficient power to climb out and cleaning up the airplane so it CAN climb out. With our Seabees there may be some variation in techniques but it should go something like this:
1 - Increase power to takeoff setting. This may require the propeller control to be increased as well. Do it slowly but deliberately.
2 - Adjust pitch attitude to climb attitude.
3 - If full flaps are used, retract flaps to mid position to decrease drag. On a Seabee just put the Flap handle up for "one potato, two potato" then return the flap handle to the mid position (neutral) and that should be about half flaps. The windstream will allow the flaps to retract without pumping the hydraulic handle.
4 - Maintain a positive rate of climb and when clear of obstacles at 80 MPH (usually above 250 feet AGL) retract the landing gear.
5 - KEEP FLYING THE AIRPLANE!
6 - Climb out as in a normal takeoff and fly the missed approach or traffic pattern.
7 - When time permits, do the After Takeoff checklist. (Flaps Up, Gear Up, Power set)
As the letter explains, Go Arounds should be practiced. We don't do go arounds that often and the time to know the procedure is BEFORE you have to do one for real. There is no stigma attached to a go around for any reason. It is not a sign of poor pilot performance on your part. As a matter of fact it shows good judgement. So next time you are in the pattern, do the go around procedure. Try it at a higher than normal altitude the first few times. When you have the procedures down cold, try it at two or three hundred feet. If you have an instructor available, give him or her a free ride in your Seabee and get their advice on Balked Landings and Go Arounds.
As I mentioned before, there may be variations in the procedures as no two Seabees are alike. For example: I have been taught to leave the propeller in "cruise" power position (2600 RPM) on Lycoming Engines until after landing. During a go around the propeller control should be advanced to climb power setting soon after the go around has been initiated. I have been told that with the Lycoming GO-480's you can push the throttle up first then twist the propeller control in to climb power setting. The brief moment it takes to get to climb power RPM will not hurt the engine or more specifically, the gear box. Push the power up s-l-o-w-l-y.
If you are on an instrument approach the procedure is identical to the above except it may happen a little bit lower than when you are VFR so a very timely go around procedure must be used. You must, however, remember the initial heading, altitude and holding fix if there is one BEFORE you start the approach. That's why we always give Approach Briefings prior to top of descent, even if you are alone! You might consider using half flaps for the whole approach and landing so in the event of a go around you don't have to worry about the climb performance during the go around phase. That would be one less thing you have to think about and if the approach is successful, the Seabee will land just fine with half flaps. The approach speed will be only a few knots faster than a normal approach.
Member Bruce Hinds reminded me of the 12 gallon minimum fuel for takeoff and go-around. The fuel pickup in the tank may become uncovered with 12 gallons or less especially with a nose-high, accelerating attitude. This may cause the engine to sputter and quit. I always plan to land with 15 gallons on board. That's about an hours flying time. With the FAR minimum, 30 minutes, you are well below the 12 gallon minimum Republic recommends. (Thanks, Bruce)
Probably the most important thing during a go around is to KEEP FLYING THE AIRPLANE! During IFR flight things can get a little hectic at times and distractions can be numerous so keep your head in the game and keep flying your Seabee.
|Check your rudder cables
The Seabee has a two-piece air rudder cable. The forward cable comes down from the rudder pedal control arms to a set of 2” pulleys that then go back through the fuselage and ends at the rudder junction where the air rudder, water rudder and, if installed, tail wheel steering cables are joined together. A few members have noticed that the turn made at the forward 2” pulleys causes fraying of the forward rudder cable. It is also more prevalent in tail wheel steering Seabees. The cable is 5/32” which is quite beefy for a control cable but AC43.13 says that anytime there is ANY fraying around a pulley or through a fare-lead they must be changed.
Needless to say the rudder is a critical component to safe flight so it must be in tip-top shape. To check these cables you must take the forward 2” pulleys off and disconnect the fork end of the cable attached to the control arms. Bend the cable slightly at the point the pulley makes contact with the cable. If you see any broken strands, change the cable. It is very cheap insurance!
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this check, get your mechanic to do it. Make sure you get your mechanic to sign off your logbook though..
|Check your Lycoming Reversing (Beta) valve spring…
Note: There is some confusion about the correct spring to use on the Beta (reversing) valve. We are checking on this and will put a notice on the website when a definitive answer is found. Both springs below have legitimacy but we want to be sure of the correct installation. There may be different valves out there and we are checking on that as well. If you have any information on this subject, please contact me and Bruce Hinds. Thank you for your patience.
Okay, this is really important; there have been cases of the Simuflight Lycoming conversion Beta valve (safety) spring installed incorrectly. If you have a spring attached to the carbon block cross bar going up to a bracket attached to one of the gearbox bolts it's wrong! The reversing plunger length on some valves has also been determined to be the wrong length. The plunger should be 5.160” long. The description and photos are listed below. The PDF file is NOT posted yet (awaiting permission) and the W.E. Aerotech article (PDF) referred to below is posted on the Seabee Club website. This may also be applicable to other Lycoming installations so check with your STC holder. Many thanks to member Bruce Hinds for bringing this critical piece to our attention. This could save your life!! This is what Bruce says:
This is not an AD but it is Critical Information for the Safety of Flight.
Do you have the right or wrong reverse safety spring on your Lycoming (Simuflight) engine installation? I was talking with Steve Mestler regarding the reverse mechanism on a Lycoming engine and it became apparent that some airplanes have an improperly installed spring that could force the propeller into reverse pitch in flight. (This had happened to one Seabee owner, fortunately he was on a very close-in pattern and got the airplane on the ground without damage.) I’ve attached 5 items; 4 pictures and a PDF file.
1-The first photo is the WRONG installation! It has been found on at least 3 Seabees that we know of.
2-The second photo shows the proper installation as noted in the document from Simuflight.
3-The PDF file is the Installation guide for the Reverse (Beta) Valve from Simuflight, which documents the proper spring
location (not linked yet. Awaiting Simuflight permission).
4-The fourth and fifth photos are scans of a two-page document from W.E. Aerotech from years ago that talks about the
operation of the system and the proper set up.
This information regarding the right and wrong springs has been confirmed with Simuflight. Scott Henderson also noted that Ken Thompson had tried to make it clear years ago as there were several spirited arguments with people that disagreed with him. It would appear that there are still Seabees running around with the wrong set up. Scott also notes . . .”There are also some shuttle valves floating around out there that are the wrong length as well. We aren't sure where these came from but people should contact us if they have questions. Overall length of the shuttle valve should be 5.160". I called Simuflight today and talked with Harold. He said they have the proper springs in stock and they are available for $7.50, which includes shipping within the lower 48 states, Alaska and international will be a bit more. You can call him at (907) 333-3357 and option 2 for the shop. The part number is a K-21 Spring.
Please check your set up and if you have the wrong spring, ground the aircraft and wait until you get the right one before you fly! Stay safe . . .
Bee Sea Nya,
Well put. Bruce wouldn’t mention it because he's too much of a gentleman but one of the wrong installations was mine and I have been flying my Seabee for 16 years! Thank you Bruce.