Brian

About Brian

Senior

Aeronautical Science & Aviation Business

Brian: Flight Operations Intern, K2 Aviation Majors: Aeronautical Science & Aviation Business Administration Hometown:Winnetka, Illinois Campus Involvement: Orientations Team, Phi Gamma Delta, ERAU Athletics, ALPA ACE Club, Digital Studios Tutor Why I chose Embry-Riddle:Because an education from Embry-Riddle almost guarantees success in the aviation industry

Flying on Floats

Another two weeks have passed up here in the Final Frontier, and my excitement and amazement of and for this incredible state has only increased. One of my goals for the summer was to get my commercial certificate for single engine sea aircraft, so I figured there was no better time to start it than right away. After some research of local flight schools I settled on flying with Alaska Floats and Skis, gave them a call and scheduled a lesson.

On day one I was greeted by the most interestingly painted aircraft I had ever seen, aptly named “Flower Power.” A Piper Tri-Pacer on EDO 2000 floats, you might think it was a step down from the Goose I had flown a week prior, but as someone new to the world of floats I was excited to get my hands on anything.

Flower Power in all her glory.

I met my instructor, we did a brief ground school session before walking down to the dock, starting the plane and taxiing away. Within minutes of takeoff I was introduced to Alaskan flying in the best possible way. As I set myself up at 1,000 feet I heard my instructor say, “This is too high, take me to 20 feet and follow the river.”

A little different than Riddle’s G1000 equipped aircraft

Over the next three days, 4.1 hours in the plane, and many more hours studying at home, I learned everything I needed to know about operating a seaplane. We worked on different kinds of taxiing (idle taxi, plow taxi, step taxi) and what makes each kind work. We worked on different types of takeoffs and landings such as rough water and confined area. To me, the most interesting maneuver to learn was the glassy water landing.

When water is glassy, meaning it is completely still, the reflection of the trees, sky and clouds can make it impossible for a pilot to judge their height above the surface. Many accidents have resulted from glassy water in which a pilot flares too high, stalls the aircraft and flips on contact or the pilot never flares, digs the fronts of the floats into the water and flips the aircraft. Not only would the experience be terrifying, it could be deadly. To avoid this, the glassy water landing technique was created. In this approach, the aircraft must be set to land while the pilot still has a visual reference of height, usually the shore before the water begins. This means holding the correct pitch attitude, having flaps set, and the proper airspeed.

Then you wait.

And wait…

And wait…

SPLASH!

All you can do is hold what you know is a safe landing attitude that will allow you to touchdown safely. You cannot change the pitch of the seaplane up. You cannot flare. Only minor adjustments of the throttle are allowed to adjust your descent rate. My first few glassy landings were a mix of horrifying and exhilarating. Without a good visual reference it was impossible to tell how close we were to the water so we waited and waited until touchdown. On an attempt in which I started higher than I should have we had to wait over a minute before the floats finally reached the surface. It was a particularly long lake so the mistake wasn’t dangerous, but instead it taught me to understand how much of an increased landing distance the glassy landing has over a standard approach.

After our 4.1 hours were up, I had an oral exam and a 1.0 check ride flight with a local examiner who found me to be in good standing. I became a certified seaplane pilot!

If you’re interested in flying and haven’t flown a float plane, I absolutely recommend it. Not only does it open up a new type of flying and new places to go, but it reinforces old lessons you’ve learned with land planes. It teaches you to have better control of the aircraft and really work with the environment you’re flying in.

These lessons and more will be further engraved in my mind after I complete next week’s goal: an Alaskan Bush Flying course.

A Long Way from Home

3,789 miles. As I sit here typing, I am 3,789 miles from home sweet home Embry-Riddle. I’ve found myself in Talkeetna, Alaska for the summer, working as an intern for K2 Aviation, a company that performs flightseeing tours around the Alaska Mountain Range in Denali National Park.

It has now been one week since I packed my bags and, accompanied by my mother, boarded an Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago to Anchorage.

Getting ready to board a flight from KORD to PALH.

We spent three days in Anchorage before making the 113 mile drive to Talkeetna. On the third day, I had the honor to visit to Lake Hood Seaplane Base and spend time flying a 1944 Grumman Goose, a multi-engine flying boat. It was as incredible as its sounds. With Goose expert Burke Mees in the right seat, we departed one lake for another, doing steep turns and stalls along the way. I could, and probably should, do an entire post about that flight, but for now I’ll simply say that my time in N703 is by far the most interesting entry in my logbook I have to date and will likely hold that title for years to come. I would encourage anyone visiting Anchorage to do an hour long flight with them, or at least take a look at the historical plane. If you are interested, more information can be found at www.goosehangar.com.

Sitting on the wing of the Goose while floating in Figure Eight Lake, just outside of Anchorage.

The arrival of Thursday meant my first day of work with K2 Aviation. My position for the summer is being a part of the office staff team doing customer service. It means I’ll be doing anything from answering calls and questions of people interested in the flightseeing tours to assisting mountain climbers get all their gear prepared for their attempt of climbing North America’s tallest peak.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America? It stands at 20,310 feet above sea level and is accessible for only a small margin of the year running from around April to July. As someone who doesn’t claim to be the least bit in shape, I decided to take the easy route of getting to the top and boarded a plane.

Aboard a deHavilland Beaver I experienced the most amazing flight I have ever been a passenger on (most amazing flight overall being the Goose). Seeing the summit of the continent’s tallest peak poking above the clouds, flying between cliff walls thousands of feet high, cruising just hundreds of feet above a 44-mile long glacier, and touching down on the snow bank in the middle of a National Park combined for an experience that still makes my jaw drop when I look back on it.

The peak of Denali in the distance.

I don’t pretend to have Alaska figured out yet. I still get confused when I call my friends after my shift for them to groggily answer that it’s 2:00am and it better be important. I still struggle to get in bed when I look out the window at a beautiful sunny day even though the clock says it’s 9:45pm (and it stays brighter later every day!). But what I have figured out is that this is going to be a summer of adventure. Adventure that will take me all over Alaska, on many modes of transportation, and deeper into the wilderness than I truthfully want to go.

While I probably won’t accomplish all the adventure goals I’ve set for myself, I promise to make sure you enjoy reading about the ones I do. So stick around, bookmark this page, and check back often because the Grumman Goose, glacier landing, and Denali summit tour was only week one. We’ve got 12 more to go.

-Brian Reedy