Fish Out of Water

Bob called this morning saying he’d be by at 8:45 to pick me up. We’d be helping a guy put his seaplane on wheels. I assumed we’d be heading to the marina but we went to the airport (4S2, Hood River, OR) instead.


All images can be enlarged by clicking on them

The seaplane was sitting on its floats on the asphalt. It’s a 1948 Piper Cub Family Cruiser.

1948 Piper Cub Family Cruiser

1948 Piper Cub Family Cruiser

Five other guys wandered over. There was a plan in place. One guy pulled down on the tail, making the plane do a wheelie. We slipped cinder blocks under the front third of the floats. Then, all of us lifted up the back half of the plane. Sam slipped the equivalent of a big creeper under both of the floats. A creeper is one of those things a car mechanic slides on to get under a car.



Sam’s creeper is about the size of a pickup truck bed. It has eight casters, two in each of the four corners. They’re about six inches in diameter. It looked like a nice way to roll a seaplane around on the ground, but I was told that this was the takeoff platform.


Since the casters were fully swiveling through 360 degrees, it didn’t track too well. We all guided it over to the fuel pumps. While they gassed her up, I wondered how the plane got here in the first place.

Sam briefed us on the procedure. We pushed it away from the fuel pumps and onto the taxiway. He fired it up and under idle power, we guided it to keep it going straight. One ninety degree turn followed another and we were on the center line of runway 25, taxiing west.



We had to crab to the south, partly for the light south wind and partly to counteract the crown in the runway. I had my left hand on the tail and the camera in my right hand. We pulled the plane around 180 degrees and lined Sam up on runway 7. Bob is out of the picture to the right. Sam has started the takeoff. I’ve let go to take the picture.





Sam had enough directional control with the rudder. In calm air, he sped down the runway and lifted off. The creeper kept going down the runway, easing slightly to the left. The known problem is whether or not the creeper takes out a runway light.


Right down the middle, into the rising sun.


Sam climbed, turned and lined up on runway 25, making a low pass for pictures.


He turned north for his three mile flight to the marina where he landed and tied it up to the dock.


After the takeoff, Bob and I rode our bikes down the runway to retrieve the creeper. This is where it came to rest, about twelve feet short of a runway light.

The Other Way

The day before Thanksgiving Sam called and asked if I had color film and a bag of marshmallows, pilot-speak for “It’s time to put this thing away for the winter.” Color film (a memory stick these days) is for recording the crash and the marshmallows would provide a tasty treat if the arrival resulted in flames.


Here’s Sam preparing for takeoff not far from where we windsurf all summer. Alas, it is not summer. The water is below 50° (on its way to 37°), the is air below 40° and the hot chocolate about 160°.


Back at the airport, this is Sam’s first pass at landing. He came in low, took a look and went around. I like the proximity of the fuel tank to this operation. Marshmallows.


For real now, he’s coming in just above the taxiway, which ends where the grass begins.


Just about there.




The old adage applies about walking away from any landing, but Sam is pacing off the landing distance…



… which was roughly 240 feet.


We put the plane on a dolly different than the creeper. This one slides under the plane and has bars that fit under the floats that can be hand cranked to lift the plane.


Tied down for the winter. The marshmallows will have to wait.