Blog I was there

A memorable seaplane flight on San Francisco Bay

Solely the topmost elements of the red-orange towers forming the suspension for the large cables of the Golden Gate Bridge have been seen above the rolling white sea fog as three-lane visitors weaved its means out of San Francisco north on Highway 101. Brilliant solar had the town sparkling this morning and prospects have been subsequently good that my seaplane flight across the Bay can be potential.

Taking the Sausalito exit, I wove by way of back streets and ahead, a sign proclaimed, “Seaplane Flights.” I pulled over in the shade of an previous wind-bent fir tree.

I walked out over a shiny green garden dotted with orange and yellow flowers and shade timber, out into the brilliant sun. There before me on the sun-speckled water of Sausalito Bay floated a well-known Cessna 172, white with yellow trim, perched atop two brilliant aluminum pontoons. The Cessna was tied to a ship cleat on the dock by a stout rope. The dock bounded with my steps as I walked as much as the Cessna.

The floating dock started to sway, and I seemed again to see Charlie, my teacher for the day, strolling out to me. I stepped from the bobbing dock onto the scuffed aluminum pontoon. The pontoon had 4 black rectangles of non-skid steps. The rear of the pontoons have been a cat’s cradle of chrome steel cables angling upward across pulleys and rearward towards the Cessna’s flight rudder, related to springs concerning the measurement of a kitchen display door on each side of aluminum D-shaped water rudders. The rudders have been rotated to the “up” position, out of the water. They’re rotated back and down, managed by a pull deal with rotating on the floorboard in the cockpit, a cable pulling both rudders.

Not a nasty place to study seaplanes.

“The water rudders are only down for taxi,” Charlie warned. “If you leave them down during takeoff or landing, they’ll be slammed up against the stops by the water and be damaged.”

I clambered into the left front seat, an extended step up from the pontoon onto an intermediate step, and then a clumsy maneuver around the door and into the left entrance pilot seat. Once there, I used to be proper at residence, identical to any previous Cessna. Charlie reminded me to decrease my water rudders. My proper hand dropped to the ground. I grasped a screwdriver-size metallic handle, pulled it forward, unlatching a silver hook, then springs pulled my hand and the deal with rearward about eight inches. The water rudders had now rotated down into the water behind each pontoon. I cycled them left, then right; the resistance in the water felt like shifting small paddles in a canoe.

Charlie tightened our mooring line and I began the engine. He was standing on the dock holding the correct door open with one hand on our wing strut. I throttled back as quickly as I had a very good begin and Charlie bent right down to untie us. He then vaulted to the pontoon because the Cessna, nonetheless at idle RPM, slowly and inexorably moved away from the dock.

I held full back strain on the yoke to hold the bow of the pontoons up out of the chop we have been now encountering as we idled out slowly into Strawberry Sound. The wind on San Francisco Bay was from the southeast, and we have been on the far northwest finish of the Bay.

“We’ll taxi back to the 101 bridge and then turn into the wind for takeoff. When you make your left turn I want full aileron to the right to hold the upwind wing down, and as you turn downwind remember to get full forward elevator,” Charlie instructed.

Clear of the dock, back strain pulling the control yoke to the stops in my lap, I slowly brought the throttle up to 1,700. As I did, the engine reared us again, but whilst I stabilized my RPMs at 1,700 on the tachometer dial, the nose started on its personal to drop down. This was “the step.” It’s the similar as in your ski boat once you stop to dig ahead, bow excessive, and she or he levels out starting to aircraft.

“Now ease off some of that back pressure,” Charlie stated, interrupting my ideas. “That’s too much, feel the wave slap, ease back more… now that’s perfect. Now get your pre-flight done.”

The sleek arc of the concrete Highway 101 bridge loomed forward of our nostril, 100 ft above us, beginning to fill my windshield. I maneuvered away from an enormous gray Sportfisherman pulling its white wake outbound from the internal harbor, and I nervously glanced over to my right at the pink and white Sausalito-San Francisco Ferry coming now around Raccoon Level. Still not a factor, but I knew it pushed an enormous bow wave and I needed the Cessna in none of that.

I acquired equal mag drop left and proper with some roughness. I interpreted this merely as carbon fouling on the sparkplugs that might burn off once I came up to full throttle. We have been now a few football subject’s distance away, headed underneath the towering bridge. I used to be nervous with no brakes and a following wind pressing us towards the bridge pilings. Two or three fishing boats have been darting forwards and backwards, apparently oblivious to me racing towards them on the step at about 30 mph.

San Francisco airplaneYou never know what you’ll see flying over the San Francisco Bay area.

I had a runway six miles extensive and about 15 miles long. I accepted Charlie’s opinion. “Plenty of space to have 20 or 30 forced landings,” I assumed. The top of my water airport is San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, eight miles away.

Carb heat pulled shortly, RPM drop noted, I then reduce the facility, as we have been nearly in the shadow of the 101 bridge. Preflight completed, able to go.

“Water rudders down,” I referred to as, whilst I moved to unlatch them, then I held back yoke, right aileron and introduced up my RPMs to start a nice straightforward flip round to face the open bay.

“Well done.”

Mic in hand, Charlie announced on Unicom: “Strawberry traffic, Cessna 8978 Echo on a southeast takeoff.”

“Water rudders up,” I referred to as, cycling my yoke and controls, urgent once more on the carb warmth, the knobby purple combination pushed to full wealthy and jiggling the floor-mounted gasoline selector in its “Both” detent.

In our taxi out, I noted the one- to two-inch excessive wavelets verifying a gentle southeast wind. As a sailor, I noted patterns of cats’ paws on the bay ahead and I now pulled full again strain with my left hand on the management yoke, reached over to pick 10 degrees of takeoff flaps, and with my right hand started to ease within the black knob on the top of the throttle, full power.

Water was now shifting back off my pontoons and up on the step she came. I relaxed a bit of the back strain and the nose eased down.

Bang… Bang… Bang… Bang.

“Your nose is too low, Bill, ease some of the back pressure back in.”

Now we have been clean again and it was exactly like a strong ski boat as spray sizzled out on both aspect. My automated back strain grip on the yoke now relaxed and with fingertips I started to look out the candy spot for the “step” as we surfed out into the bay.

All of a sudden I used to be conscious that my pontoons have been solely hitting tops of waves from time to time. I appeared again and down and noticed water and spray dripping out from the pontoons. I eased off my back strain to accelerate in floor (water?) impact, our parallel “V” wakes, then spreading apart behind.

We have been flying! The ailerons have been as responsive in roll as a land aircraft, but the nose felt heavy as I arrange my 65 mph climbing flip to the left, rolling up trim. The engine appeared to groan and labor compared to a landplane.

Forward, San Francisco sparkled white in the clear sunshine, sailboats off to the left, Alcatraz ahead. Under, the bay angled away and I might see inexperienced islands with brown tops, most with houses. The houses clung to the sting of steep hills, cantilevered out with their green and blue swimming swimming pools, awash in all types of purple, purple, pink, and green flowering shrubs and fir-like timber. Clearly the every day doses of fog morning and afternoon, along with the 50-60 diploma sunny days, have been as invigorating to the crops as to me this high-quality morning.

Approaching 1,600 ft I continued my left turn around. Charlie stated we might fly west then left over the fog masking the ocean, coming again to the bay over the Golden Gate. “As we come over the Golden Gate we have to be down to 1,400 to be below the ARSA,” Charlie suggested. “Just pull the power back to 2,000 and use a cruise-descent.”

San Francisco viewIt by no means gets previous.

I noted that small pitch modifications resulted in higher pitch excursions because of the strain of the airflow across the cumbersome pontoons. Typically for no cause with the aircraft; in hands-off trim, the nose would hunt upward or down and I must strain it again and re-trim. For a motorboat, this was still some grand experience. I used to be amazed that we are allowed to overfly San Francisco as a result of all over the place helicopters have been buzzing and large jumbo jets have been straining overhead, obviously in a laborious, fat-with-fuel climb as they headed westward on a route over the Pacific.

I noted a Nippon 747 and Cathay Pacific L-1011 – all sharing their airspace with my very tiny 172. A white Princess ocean liner was at one dock, a gray canted-deck plane service was in port over in Alameda. Yellow and black ferries and pink and white tour boats bustled about everywhere in the bay, pulling their sensible white “V” wakes. A number of sailboats have been out. Alcatraz brooded sullenly off by itself, a monument to the darkish aspect of life. Part of the ache and punishment of this jail was to be so near, yet so removed from the gorgeous jewel of a metropolis with its luxurious lodges, magnificent delicacies and delightful surroundings.

We shot many water landings, the fascinating and delightful details of which await another story, and as all good things should end, Charlie directed me to fly via the saddle peaks on Tiburon peninsula and instructed me to turn from base to last “10 feet above the bridge.”

“Did you say ten?”


Scorching dog, a legalized buzz job, I assumed.

I chosen carburetor heat ON and 10 degrees of flap as I came up on Freeway 101, barely skimming a home cantilevered out on a small mountain and as my airspeed hit 70, I chosen 20 degrees of flap, a few rolls of down trim and I was racing a silver and blue Greyhound Scenicruiser for an open spot on the bridge railing. The adrenaline pumped and, in a flash, I gained the race, and commenced to settle under the bridge.

Maintain it off, power back, sea degree on the altimeter, 65, stall horn, hold it off, back strain.

Shoooosh, we touched the water softly, powered to idle, water rudders down, wheel full again and we have been bobbing now on the water. I allowed the wind and the idling prop to angle us ever closer to our dock, slowly, slowly, till Charlie opened his door, stepped to the dock and held the strut.

“Cut,” he referred to as, and I pulled the combination to idle cutoff and we have been again.