Here is a very interesting email reply, for an interesting read:
Mike Hirshfield here. I’m the Membership Chairman of the BC Floatplane
Association. I’m also a private pilot with 60 years flying experience. I’ve
been an amphib pilot for 19 years.
In response to your invitation to comment on amphib safety flying…on your
subject of wheels down water landings of amphibious aircraft.
The certified amphib aircraft are locked in to some form of check.
Example.. a checklist, voice recorders, lights, buzzers, mirrors, visual
retraction flags..all help but are not foolproof. The homebuilt aircraft
on the other hand, would be free to design safety into their machine, to not
flip. I have done this with my aircraft. The solution is an engineering
My amphib is a homebuilt, so I could design it so that it would not flip at
landing speeds with wheels down on the water. There was no intention of
testing this feature but test it I did. Twice. Raven Lake in Pitt Meadows
and Schoolhouse Lake in the Cariboo (both within BC). A great lot of spray
and a very quick stop was the result. And a pilot that felt very stupid was
all that happened on both occasions.
My aircraft is a stretched TriPacer with a designed wing and a systems
designed automotive engine. The floats were specifically designed so as the
aircraft they carried, at landing speeds with wheels down, would not flip.
However, there was much more than designing the floats. The entire aircraft’s
centre of gravity, the distance from the fuselage to the floats, extra
floatation in the front of the floats, fuel carried in the floats rather
than the wings, the length of the fuselage, the design and type of the spray
rails, the size of the floats (2500’s), many items contributed to a safe
landing amphibious float plane with wheels down.
The two landings I made with wheels down – one was with two people up front
and the other was just with the pilot, which would be maximum forward CG.
With passengers in the rear there would be much less likelihood of a flip.
The large slotted flaps (designed by Abbott and Doenhoff in the Theory of
Wing Sections) contribute greatly to the low landing speeds in the 45 mph
Stephen, thank you for this opportunity to comment on your topic of flying
safety. I too hope other pilots will have successful wheels down landings