From the Cockpit Part 46: Lake Buccaneer

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Editor’s Note: This is part 46 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

By land or sea, Rankin’s going to get airborne, this time testing his skills behind the stick of another amphibious aircraft, the Lake Buccaneer. Flying out of Sebring, FL with flight instructor and former Air Force Huey Pilot Brant Howell, Rankin took the Buccaneer for a roughly 30-minute joyride, practicing both water and runway landings, before heading back to base.

Appearing very much like a boat, the wings on top give it away, says Rankin, “but it’s still an unusual design.” With the engine mounted on top in order to keep it out of the water, the propeller moves from the nose of the plane, to face the opposite direction from atop the fuselage. Called a “pusher” (as opposed to a “puller”), the propeller, fittingly enough, pushes the craft over the runway and through the air as opposed to dragging it along behind the prop. Rankin’s flown pushers before, and it’s no big deal. “It’s a little different when you add power,” he says, but that’s about it.

Not the first amphibious craft of the year, “I’m getting more comfortable,” says Rankin. Of course, on pavement or a runway, the Buccaneer acts like any other plane. It’s when it comes time to land on the water that things get tricky. “If you see videos of seaplane landings gone bad,” he says, “it gets violent pretty quick.”

But Rankin’s growing accustomed to what he should look for, checking wind conditions, chop on the water and hazards like fishermen or crab traps. The goal is to fly into the wind, with minimal wave activity and glide in without catching on anything. A poor angle or messy chop can cause the wing to dip into the water (this kills the plane) or the fuselage itself to catch in the waves. Most importantly, Rankin says, pilots have to be sure the traditional landing gear is stowed and up. Many triple-check.

A fun rid with a fun guy, Rankin’s only critique would be that the Buccaneer requires some heavy handling, meaning he’s having to throw the stick “all over the place” in order to execute the desired maneuvers. “I prefer something that has a bit more of a response,” he says. Still, a seaplane would be definitely be a dream, though possibly a Beaver (From the Cockpit Part 15) instead of a Buccaneer. “If I had a quiver of airplanes,” laughs Rankin, “an amphib would absolutely be one.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin and Brant Howell fly the Lake Buccaneer. Photo by Ryan Rankin.

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