Although I had discussed flying in the past with Doug Happe, I hadn't realized that he was quite active, and had acquired his own airplane a few years ago. When Doug and I recently met, I asked what aircraft he'd been flying lately, and he pointed at his sweatshirt, which read - 'Jump in a Lake'. I had little background on the Lake amphibian, so we agreed to keep in touch, and trade some flights in the Lake for some soaring time for Doug.
Doug is the proud owner of a Lake 250 Renegade amphibian, which he bases at the Auburn, WA airport. The Lake Amphibian was designed and built as an amphibious aircraft, not converted as float plane. The Lake Amphibian evolved from the Grumman line of great amphibians, the Widgeon, Goose and Albatross, and is currently the only FAA certified new hull, single engine amphibian being built.
Doug sent me and Mary an e-mail invite, asking if we'd like to head to dinner in the Lake, where I could also check out the amphibious capabilities on some local waters. Without hesitation, we agreed, and met Doug and Ann at Auburn airport in the late afternoon, where Doug's pristine Lake Renegade was pre-flighted and ready to go. Doug gave us a quick pre-flight safety briefing, and then we donned our floatation belts, jumped in and started up the engine. Doug's Lake is nicely equipped for full IFR operations, since he uses it for numerous trips across the Cascades to Moses Lake, WA.
The Lake 250 is equipped with a Lycoming IO-540 engine, which is controlled by unique throttle and prop controls located on the cockpit roof, instead of down on the cockpit console. We taxied out with the large gull wings open, enjoying the beautiful late spring temperatures. Once we were buttoned up, Doug applied power and we lifted off and sucked up the gear, affording us a surprisingly nice climb rate, even with four of us onboard.
Doug then gave me the flight controls to get a feel for the bird. The aileron forces were light but firm, allowing for easy corrections in the slightly turbulent low altitude conditions. Pitch forces were definitely aided by use of the trim system, controlled from the left seat by an electric trim switch on the yoke, or manually via a large handle between the front seats. Doug had me fly to our first destination, Lake Sammamish, located just east of Bellevue, where I let down for some 'splash and dash' training in water landings.
Doug took over on base leg, and we surveyed the lake for obstacles as we turned and established 80 knots on final. Doug demonstrated final approach technique, retarding the power at about 25 feet, and smoothly applying back pressure to the yoke to touchdown at about 60 knots, then releasing pressure on the yoke as soon as we were down. Doug demo'd two more landings, and then gave the Lake to me. With some excellent coaching, I was able to make two decent touch and go landings, with my touchdowns masked by the somewhat turbulent waves. I was amazed how quickly the Lake accelerated as soon as I was able to lift it out of the water and being climbing. I could get used to this!
Since the water was a bit rough on Lake Sammamish, it was time to climb to a smooth cruising altitude for our ladies and head to dinner. We had great late afternoon views of the Seattle skyline as we headed west to Bremerton, where Doug demoed a smooth wheel landing on Runway 1 at Bremerton National airport. After parking at the surprisingly packed transient parking ramp, we enjoyed excellent halibut dinners at the Bremerton Airport Diner.
Taxiing out for return flight, we all marveled at the perfect early evening temperatures and the fresh air on our faces through the wide-open gull windows. We climbed quickly to 1400', where Doug began vectoring me for one last lake approach. As we neared Long Lake, southeast of the town of Bremerton, the surface of the water looked as smooth as glass. Doug settled us in for a glass water landing, contrasting with the conditions on choppy Lake Sammamish, giving us a true flavor for a how smooth a water landing can be made.
Departing Long Lake, we skirted south of the SEATAC Class Bravo airspace, and headed to Auburn airport for another smooth touchdown in a great airplane. Thanks, Doug and Ann, we look forward to more opportunities to 'Jump in a Lake'!