We picked a small one-a couple hundred acres of water-that had a scant half dozen or so homes surrounding it and no boat traffic.
On the way over, Mark had showed me one of the most basic seaplane pilot skills, how to determine wind direction and approximate velocity. You'd be amazed at how close you can come to the wind's true speed simply by observing the size and nature of the waves. Waves just starting to exhibit white caps, for instance, betray the wind's speed at about eight knots. The direction of the wind, another crucial factor in seaplane operations, can be determined by the orientation of the streaks on the water, as well as a telltale band of glassy water along the upwind shore. (For you Peter Garrison fans, that's the area of laminar flow of air over the water.) Signs are less obvious when the wind isn't very strong, but luckily, it doesn't matter as much then.
The landing pattern for a seaplane, when conditions and terrain permit, is pretty much the same as for a landplane: downwind, base and final, only lower, a few hundred feet or so. The inspection of the landing site-the water-on the flyover is more critical, however, for it's at this point that you'll need to look for obstructions, partially submerged logs, boaters and pilings, that could wreck your airplane and your day. And did I mention alligators?
Different kinds of seaplanes have different kinds of landing checklists, and the most important item on the Husky's is "gear." When landing on water, a gear-up landing is a good thing, and vice versa. In fact, a gear-down landing on water is almost always much worse than a gear-up landing on a runway, which generally results in little damage to persons or property.
A normal landing in a floatplane like the Husky is a relatively simple affair, though if you're in the habit of doing full-stall landings, you'll have to learn to moderate the flare. Flying floats is all about being able to establish an attitude and hold it, based on the conditions. That said, my first landings in the Husky were pretty good, though I did tend to flare a bit too much. The Husky has just the right blend of stability and responsiveness for an airplane of its type; its straight flaps are quite effective, and aileron spades provide increased roll power. Moreover, the climbing ability of the thing is remarkable, which is a welcome trait in any seaplane.
Next on our seaplane skills hit list were glassy water landings. While lots of wind makes for hazardous seaplane operations, so does no wind at all, because of the danger that glassy water poses. When the water is rippled, wind streaked or even a bit choppy, it's pretty easy to judge your distance above the surface. Not so with glassy water. The technique, in short, is to establish a landing attitude above the last visual reference, a tree, bush or buoy, and then hold that attitude until the floats contact the water, avoiding in the process the urge to judge your height visually. You don't try because, repeat after me, you can't tell. With truly glassy water, the bottom of the lake or bay, which may be 20 feet or more below the surface, can look like the surface as you set up to land. When conditions are like this, a pilot trying to judge the flare visually can fly the airplane floats low directly into the drink, seeking that illusionary surface, with predictably disastrous results. The key with glassy water is to not trust your instincts, relying instead on the technique. It's a skill that takes practice.