Piper J-3 Cub Float Plane Discovery Flights & That “Thing” About Flying

A two thumbs up from this Piper J-3 Cub float plane
crew returning to Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base.
Connie Sue White

Recently, I was reminded about that "thing" about flying when Bonnier Corp.'s Flying magazine and Jack Brown's Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, Florida, hosted 12 folks visiting from the Bonnier parent company's headquarters in Sweden as part of a Live the Brand event. Flying offered up two choices: discovery flights in Cessnas or discovery flights in seaplanes. No one signed up for the more "traditional" option.

I could tell right off the group would be a delight. A couple of the participants had flying experience in gliders and ultralights, but other than that, the group’s overall experience with recreational flying was limited. Despite that, participants were all excited about their event choice. The morning was perfect for flying, with a gentle breeze from the south and a partial high ceiling, boding well for smooth air. As our van pulled into the seaplane base parking lot, they murmured in excited expectation when they saw the three Piper J-3 Cubs and Maule aircraft parked along the shore and on the ramp, ready and waiting. They couldn’t wait to get into these birds and go flying! In fact, when the two who were slated for the Maule saw the Cubs, they requested flights in the Cubs too, if there was time. And there was.

So the day began. All four airplanes took off from Lake Jesse, one after the other, with the first round of passengers for their half-hour flights. Off they flew to explore a few of the dozens of lakes in the area looking for alligators, to overfly Ringling Brothers Circus’ retirement community for pachyderms, and, of course, to try their hand at some good ol’ stick-and-rudder flying. Jack’s pilots — Bob, Ben, Gordy and Morgan — made a total of four such rounds of flights, wrapping up the last one about two hours later.

As I greeted each returning flight, every single person expressed how much he or she had enjoyed it, from how it felt to fly the airplane and landing on water to seeing Florida’s special scenery up close (read: alligators). And a few said it was more than they imagined it would be. They just couldn’t stop talking about it, especially the women! I can’t tell you how heartening it was to hear their enthusiasm.

Which brings me back to that "thing" about flying. It reminded me that that age-old hook, or "thing" — that visceral joy of flight that many experience when they take to the air (especially in airplanes like a Cub on floats) — will always be there for people to experience. It's not going away. This in turn reminded me, however, that as pilots we are all stewards of something wonderful and we should take every opportunity to introduce others to this "thing." Of course, not each and every person will feel it or turn around and take lessons and become pilots, for the reasons we all know too well. But, at the very least, if we can say we gave them that opportunity to experience it, we've done our job. And if for one reason or another they don't take to the skies to become pilots, they will most likely hold onto that memory and they will be able to keep it alive and well by reading about flying through the eyes of others. Luckily, we at Flying can give them that too.

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