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What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Teaching & Learning Techniques, Study & Practice.

What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby KeithSmith » Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:53 pm

I'll be honest. I suck as a seaplane pilot. I'm just one of those "shake and bake" seaplane school graduates and not a REAL seaplane pilot.

My inadequacies are most glaring is when I try to dock the airplane. I was just thinking that there must be a lot of low time or student pilots like me who make a spectacle out of docking. So, what is the worst docking you've seen and how did it go wrong?
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby jjbaker » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:19 am

Keith, all certificated seaplane pilots are absolute experts - and since I am the youngest here, I'll write up my perspective of things.
Its Sunday and who wants to go to church, anyways, right?

Real Floatplane Pilot Docking Procedures

REAL floatplane pilots never miss the dock. In fact many of them are able to shut the engine off approximately 2.23 miles away from the dock in a stiff breeze, finishing their paperwork with their left foot dangling out the door. Then they light up a Cigar, graciously step on the float, nonchalantly place their hand on the strut and then stand there like the Marlboro man while the airplane magically floats exactly to where they wanted it. The coolest ones will do a perfect 9.5 grace step right onto the dock with the tiedown rope ready to tie the airplane securely with some magic looking knot they won't be able to "explain" to us common folk. All this while the airplane ever so gently, softly bumps against the perfectly positioned bumper tires. The airplane never hits the dock hard or at an angle or in any way shape or form that would leave the bystander doing anything but stand there, with an open mouth and deep admiration for the skill at hand. Its those pilots who can tie an airplane up securely enough to withstand a hurricane - yet when they want to go again, they go wiggle wiggle, push the plane off the dock and PFFFT! gone they are.

Common Folk And Student Procedures

If (and that's a big if) the aircraft structure remained intact enough during the landing impact to still be floating, our first task is to provide first aid and level one counseling to those who think they just died. During instructional flights its better to leave the engine running and the headset on (open the window to alleviate pressure) until the pissed off cooking mad old guy with the red head and veins popping out of their throat on the right seat has stopped screaming and name-calling. While it is impossible in common aircraft to remain out of that guys reach, at least don't speak to avoid being grabbed by the neck and being slammed through the panel repeatedly. Many students have died this way. Pay attention to where they point their fingers, it likely helps you to determine where land might be indicating a general direction which you should attempt to point the aircraft to on your return trip to shore. It is now handy to use these large hunting binoculars.

You can do it, :Captain: Keith!

Discovering Land!

Eventually you may see land buildings, docks, boats, things that look as if someone may park an airplane next to. A good indicator that your intended spot is in fact a seaplane base dock is the presence of other planes and a lack of screaming people on shore who are waving their arms frantically trying to shoo you away. Pay attention to what they scream. If they are waving their arms and scream something about docks, you might be mistaken and they are in fact yelling about ROCKS! If there is a way to beach the aircraft, it is humane to try and sneak this procedure into the mix, you can always lie and say you need more training with beaching. With most evil instructors up to no good these days, follow orders to avoid major altercations and bodily harm. Chances are they wish to see you dock the vessel. It is fairly simple to find large rocks simply by listening to the noise coming from the right seat. Consider that person like a screaming sonar or a particularly angry fish finder. The more it wiggles and screams, the closer you are to things that may possibly sink your ship.

Now, lets assume land has in fact appeared (verify nationality by flags or language) and you were able to identify a dock. It is now time to at least get the aircraft pointed in the general direction. Always aim for a space that has at least the capacity to take on a class IV cruise ship (5000 passengers or more) and you want at least 6,423 feet prior and 6,000-10,000 feet behind the intended docking spot of absolutely clear space. Again, you can test by aiming for other spots and listen to the obstacle finder on the right seat. Once those things are appearing safe, it is now time to prepare the captain for the docking procedure.

Pre Docking And Docking

It is now prune to take off any piece of clothing you wish to use for the remainder of the day. Cellphones, wallets, things you wish to keep, neck chains, jewelery, everything you wish to remain dry should now come off. Yes, the seatbelt too! (Ask me how I know). It is now prune to speak a short prayer and take the headset off (GOD NO DUDE!!! Don't put that ON the damn instrument panel, do you want to die???) At this point you wish to make darn sure that no piece of the headsets cable is wrapped or caught on you! Chances are the connector plug piece will snap but the headset may strangle, hit or kill you first while you fall into the water. Sometimes you can play with the magnetos (it makes the engine sound sick or with the mixture to bring this giant meat-grinder to a stop before you hit things. Sometimes your judgement is clouded which is when you want to wait for the angry fish-finder guy or gal to do stuff.

Open the door and attempt to step on the float, never taking your eyes from the prize (general direction of land). You may now either find a desire to use the paddles strapped to the floats or wish you had an anchor because chances are, you're too far out to jump and swim or way to fast to manage a full evacuation of the neighborhood.

Doing It Again - And Once More For Grandpa

With increasing noise levels in the cabin, or if the engine suddenly starts cranking, its probably time to get back inside and face the music. Chances are, you're doing it again or need to burn another 3 gallons trying to get closer to the dock. Eventually, you will find yourself on the float just in time when the airplane is close enough to the dock to dare the jump. I know what you are thinking - "What about that graceful step?!" but forget about it. In times of distress it is absolutely natural to feel the way you do and its sometimes better to at least make sure you will in fact hit the dock before slowly sliding into the water between the aircaft's float and the rubber tires. Once on the dock however, the noise levels should subside. You will likely be busy with tying the impossible knot while the other end of the float tries to weather-vane far enough out to make you take another swim. Here it helps to hold on to any line attached to the aircraft - not the dock! Holding on to a rope attached to the dock won't keep the airplane around and chances are the screaming red headed guy is already grumpy and on his way out of the cabin. It absolutely sucks to watch the last occupant of your aircraft walk off with a $150K dollar toy making it back out to sea. After tie down it pays your weight in gold to just sit on the dock next to the airplane for 15 minutes or so. If someone comes by asking what you're doing, you can always say that you are "reflecting" on the flight when in fact you're worried sick that the darn plane will develop some devilish way of leaving dock on its own.

Don't try to look cool!

The last thing you wish to do is try to look cool while doing any of this, again - it is perfectly human to cry, shake, call for mommy or wish you were dead.
Fortunately, most seaplane pilots watching you throughout the ordeal are not laughing about you, they are laughing from the painful reminder about their own past, watching another greenhorn going through the phases towards becoming the worlds bestest seaplane pilot. Eventually things click, or if you are like me, you'll just start a discussion forum for other seaplane pilots in hopes to learn and help others be prepared to learn.

:cheers:
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby Tim McCormack » Sun Mar 30, 2014 5:34 pm

Keith, in 500 words or less.... :lol:

One time I was in Canada on a fishing trip and went to a place that had avgas available. It was only a short ways from where we were staying and it was just before dusk. Not that that makes any difference. As I came to the dock with my door unlatched, as normal, I cut the engine and started my drift in. Just as I was hopping out, the wind caught my sectional and tossed it in the water.

Feeling that the sectional might be of some value for my return trip home (this was before GPS) I made a grab for it just as the floats came to the dock with a good bump. If you can believe this, I actually fell through the triangle formed by my float struts right totally into the water. What is at least as interesting is that I was so quick getting back onto the float that part of the back of my shirt was still dry. I still don't know how that happened.

So, being a "student" has little to do with it. We're all students. :FlyingOffHorse:
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby CFII » Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:23 pm

Got a video of your docking syllabus, Jason?
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby cubdriver2 » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:30 pm

Docking is a piece of cake compared to hand propping and leaving the same difficult spot by yourself.

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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby KeithSmith » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:10 am

I would hear my instructor explain something like .........

Okay, the current is going this way, the wind is going that way, our momentum is going another way, so .......

what we're going to do is something with the water rudders, put the mags on one mag, open that door, then as we get to the dock we're going to ......

and it all went by so fast we're at the dock and I'm just starting to get the part about which way the current is going as we kiss the dock.


Which also brings up the first thing I noticed in a seaplane. The brakes don't work. I want to stop and talk about this for a minute, but things keep happening.
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby RKittine » Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:03 am

Although I have owned about 8 sailboats and consider myself a decient sailor, I have missed docks, fell off floats and generally done everything the wrong way one time or another when it comes to seaplane docking, but doind some sailing will help sharpen your skills.

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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby TriPacer » Mon Mar 31, 2014 11:38 am

I haven't had the pleasure of too many docking attempts, but my first shots at learning were pretty ridiculous. Either in way too close or laughably far away. It's like my depth perception disappears during the docking procedure. We'll see how it goes this spring when I finish off the rating!
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby KeithSmith » Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:58 pm

RKittine wrote:Although I have owned about 8 sailboats and consider myself a decient sailor, I have missed docks, fell off floats and generally done everything the wrong way one time or another when it comes to seaplane docking, but doind some sailing will help sharpen your skills.

Bob


Thanks Bob. That's encouraging.

In fact, that is something that has made me want to go back and try seaplane flying again. When I got the rating I had zero experience with a boat. After the seaplane rating I owned two small sailboats. I learned about sailing pretty much the way I learned about flying. I read a book and then went out and did everything wrong at least once. In fact, I was just telling the story about the time I went sailing and forgot to put the centerboard down. Nothing made sense and it took me the longest time to figure out what the problem was.

I never fell off the dock, but I did capsize while still tied to the dock. I stepped into the Sunfish, lost my balance, grabbed the mast for stability, and took the whole boat over on its side and me into the water. The worst part of doing that is when you come back up to the surface and look towards the dock. All the other sailors are standing there looking at you with the most incredulous looks on their faces.

At any rate, I was thinking that maybe with the sailing experience I've had that the seaplane wouldn't seem so foreign this time.
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby RKittine » Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:39 am

My first sailboat was a Sunfish given to me by a neighbor. With no sailing experience, I sailed out onto Lake George and 3 hours later my dad came and got me with our ski boat. The next day I tried again with about the same results. Fun going with the wind, but I did not know anything about tacking. One hour of instruction by a guy who knew how to sail and I was at least able to start learning, but even better, I could do out and get back.

Today, I can single handle a well rigged 52.

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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby CFII » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:21 pm

Had great times sailing PacNW, paddling out trough surf in leeetle Sea Snarks, out on open ocean day and night, then trying to surf them back in, which was successful about half the attempts.

One rental customer/student was standing abeam and bent over, grabbed the dock and slowly extended to the full plank position as the boat moved away.... It was amazing how fast he got out of the water after the inevitable full dunking.
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby CFII » Wed Apr 02, 2014 1:18 am

The best thing the sailing/boating taught me was that it was way too slow and crowded and to get into seaplaning!
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby akavidflyer » Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:38 am

one of the first flights in my brothers kitfox when I put it on floats... I was coming into a dock with a buddy in the plane and due to the configuration I had to come in on the right side of the plane. I jumped out and started to walk across the wire to get on the right float.... I forgot there was a clutch installed and the prop free wheeled on me when I grabbed it to steady myself and into the drink I went. Of course this was in front of about 50 party goes and the head of security here at work.

Another time was when I first put the full lotus floats on my Avid and did not have the water rudders installed. took 4 or 5 trys to get to the dock with the nasty wind that was blowing and it ended with me getting pissed off and just running the plane up on the dock at about 10 MPH. The folks at the lodge got a good laugh out of that one. I since added water rudders and the world is a better place to be now when it comes to docking.

:beer:
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby Muskeg » Tue Apr 29, 2014 7:19 pm

I was a fishing guide for years before becoming a seaplane pilot and I can tell you that my power boat experience did, and still does influence and help me. I think a seaplane is more similar to a powered boat, but all boats have to deal with wind and current. I would think that sailing experience would help you.



KeithSmith wrote:
RKittine wrote:Although I have owned about 8 sailboats and consider myself a decient sailor, I have missed docks, fell off floats and generally done everything the wrong way one time or another when it comes to seaplane docking, but doind some sailing will help sharpen your skills.

Bob


Thanks Bob. That's encouraging.

In fact, that is something that has made me want to go back and try seaplane flying again. When I got the rating I had zero experience with a boat. After the seaplane rating I owned two small sailboats. I learned about sailing pretty much the way I learned about flying. I read a book and then went out and did everything wrong at least once. In fact, I was just telling the story about the time I went sailing and forgot to put the centerboard down. Nothing made sense and it took me the longest time to figure out what the problem was.

I never fell off the dock, but I did capsize while still tied to the dock. I stepped into the Sunfish, lost my balance, grabbed the mast for stability, and took the whole boat over on its side and me into the water. The worst part of doing that is when you come back up to the surface and look towards the dock. All the other sailors are standing there looking at you with the most incredulous looks on their faces.

At any rate, I was thinking that maybe with the sailing experience I've had that the seaplane wouldn't seem so foreign this time.
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Re: What is the worst docking you have ever seen?

Unread postby hotspur666 » Fri May 02, 2014 12:09 am

Worst docking?

Well, one day, flying the Dornier DO-28A-1, I took four surveyors
to take the measures of the land around cottages in the north on Crown land
for the purpose of leasing from the government.

Image
Funny, I believe that's the very one...but I had no tail fin and had bubble windows for passengers.

Once the the job done, guys mentioned they had a few caribou licences and asked to
look out for animals for venison meat. Flying over the George river(going into Ungava Bay)
we spotted a lone one swimming right in the middle of a widened part of the river, lake like.
So we landed next to him and our heroes killed him and hoisted him on board.

We took off again and carried on...once at the lake inlet, where it narrowed back to a river,
we then saw a small herd running by the shore.

Image

Of course, they begged me to land again to get at least a couple more...
The Dornier, with triple slotted flaps, flaperons and drooping ailerons and
leading edge slots can land going backward if it is windy...so it was not a problem per se...

However one of the passenger got "bushed", meaning batshit crazy, (some hunters get like that!)
so, while we were still a hundred feet in the air, the lunatic opened the door,
busted my bubble window because the flaps were down AND STEPPED ON THE LEFT FLOAT!!!

So I had to land watching him leaning on the wing stub blasting away at the caribous
from still ten feet in the air!

Well, he managed to hang on the plane, but after landing, I suppose the blast of air
put some sense back in his head and he apologized...still he got to be the butt of all jokes
for the rest of his life!

The more sensible hunters got a couple more caribous...one had no head anymore,
these hi-powered rifles will vaporize a big hole in anything. However, to take the animals,
i made them take out the guts, as since a gutted caribou weight the same as a man,
they have the mother of all beer bellies, weighting in well over 400 pound with the intestines...

This Dornier was the ultimate seaplane, but like all German designs, was
extremely expensive to operate...for instance, it had all control rods...going smack in the
middle of all four fuel tanks in the wing...so, if you had a fuel leak, the whole wing
had to be taken apart...so good by for your plane for a month!
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