From the Cockpit Part 47: Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey

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Editor’s Note: This is part 48 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.

Back on the water, Rankin tries his hand at another amphibious aircraft this week—the Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey. Also a tailwheel aircraft, it may seem like double the difficulty, but on the water it makes no nevermind, with the wheels tucked safely up and outside the cockpit windows. Most likely the last amphibious aircraft of the year for Rankin, it’s something he feels he’s getting to know better and better. “I know what to look for,” he says.

Flying out of Destin Executive Airport with a flight instructor named Rose from, Rankin gets a feel for the SeaRey. The one he’s in is one of the very first factory-built SeaReys released in 1992, and this is important. Being factory-built, this particular SeaRey is cleared for commercial use. Also available in kit form (assembled on delivery), those would be classified as experimental craft and for private use only. “Essentially,” says Rankin, “you can do anything with an experimental craft without breaking the rules.” Except commercial flights, which would mean no flight with Rose.

Taking a 30-minute flight out over the beach and past the sandbar, the SeaRey presents no noticeable quirks or oddities that Rankin can notice. “A well-built machine,” he says, and one that combines high functionality with a bit of that pioneering home-built feel, bringing a bit of both worlds. Flying over the water and past the sandbar, Rankin experiences two firsts—landing an amphibious aircraft in saltwater and counting dolphins and sharks from 100 feet over the water. For an avid surfer, the latter was a bit more unsettling.

A bit on the lighter side (Rankin estimates around 900 pounds, fully fueled), he could feel the wind pushing the craft a bit even in fair weather, but that’s to be expected. Some are more susceptible than others—the key is not to fight it. “You just let the airplane move around while you maintain positive control,” Rankin says, and unduly fighting Mother Nature means possibly damaging flight controls. Maintain altitude and heading and speed within reason, but go with the flow. “You’re just there to keep things under control,” he says.

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

Pictured: Ryan Rankin flies the Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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