In addition to Larson Lake, Esther and I spent some time practicing in a series of lakes south of Talkeetna called Rocky Lakes. While on a confined-area approach — a steeper than normal approach at 70 knots, Esther said: “There’s something over there; let’s go and take a look.”
A large, dark shape was evident in an adjacent lake, so I aborted my landing, applied full power and flew toward the unknown object. A mother moose was training two calves to swim, crossing the small lake adjacent to our training lake. The distraction in our training was fully worthwhile.
Another challenging landing that is part of the commercial seaplane curriculum is the 180-degree emergency landing. Like any emergency landing, the procedure is to pitch for best glide — 80 knots in the Tri-Pacer — and set up toward the landing spot. But once aligned with the touchdown point, I had to pitch down quite dramatically to reach 90 to 95 knots before transitioning to level near the water’s surface. The procedure was a little intimidating at first but produced nice, smooth no-power landings.
Parking a seaplane was not as challenging as I expected. I simply pointed the Tri-Pacer toward the dock at about a 45-degree angle, cut the mixture about 40 feet out and floated slowly to the dock. But I was fortunate to have light winds throughout my training, and I imagine that parking could be an incredible challenge with strong winds.
After seven hours of training over two days, I felt ready for my check ride. All went well and I had a fresh temporary airman certificate in my hand for the first time in many years. Getting my seaplane rating was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in the dozen or so years I’ve spent flying around in little airplanes. Now every time I see a lake, I visualize the optimal approach and landing path. And while I’m sad to say that I won’t be using the privileges of my seaplane rating often, I highly recommend the rating to any pilot who is looking for a fun and rewarding learning experience. Alaska Floats & Skis offers float ratings from mid-May through October. The cost for the two-day course is $1,900, and it includes a three-night stay at a beautiful log cabin adjacent to the school to give enough time for the check ride on the third day.
Also check out "What Makes a Seaplane Float?"