This will sound terribly cheesy and not well thought out, definitely not like something sober people would write.
After being reminded of Kevin's accident (which was so terribly poorly investigated by T.C.) I had some beer from Belgium and Germany to reset my hard-drive. His loss is one of the 32 I count, one of the very few which still hurt me personally, almost two years after the crash.
What I find most disturbing about Kev's accident is that he apparently committed a complacency, rookie mistake when landing on a confined water-body in pretty much inclement weather. For me personally, the aircraft and the mods play a minor role, because a good seaplane pilot flies by the seat of their pants - IOW's with his/her ASS. I know, deep in me, that Kev was such a pilot. Like my grandfather used to say: He is a "flying with his ass" kind of pilot. But, on this particular bad hair day, he was too sure to be able to handle it. Poof. Done. Shit! This fortunately usually happens so quickly, you won't have much time to regret your moves and actions. In fact, I think most of those who get hit with something of such magnitude, fight it to the bitter end - which is why I think that no pilot ever dies doing something he/ she loves. Getting killed is no fun, sorry.
A good pilot (in my book) can feel out what he is allowed to ask from the airplane in any given circumstance. Fail any instrument, the engine or anything, really - and a good pilot will still conclude the flight on the ground with everyone on board intact and walking. Sometimes, just sometimes, we tend to think that we can master or teach Physics and Nature a lesson. We fly "on the edge". For commercial pilots this is a normal, for us weekend and hobby warriors, its a special day we either get to talk about, or we don't. Many, or most don't, cuz if they could, we would think twice before converting our husbands or wives to widowers.
I remember ferrying a modified Mooney sometime in the 90's, shortly after I got my license. There was no complex or high performance endorsement, just an owner tossing me the keys to an airplane he thought I could fly. Fact: My PPL-A allowed me to fly single engine, piston powered aircraft up to 2000KG MTOW, and the Mooney fits that bill. So, I sat in that plane on a hot summer day, reading the POH. Goal: "How do I.....?" I had read and studied for a while, when a 75 year old instructor stopped by. His words: "Feel it, when it's ready to fly you will know, because the plane tells you everything you need to know." I kept reading for a while, before deciding to fire the plane up and go. Guess it worked.
At the end of the day, determining exact performance data isn't what floats the ship. The plane was built and flew in dozens of configurations, with dozens, or no mods at all. If it was brought back to mother earth by anyone before you (in its current configuration), then it deserves to be brought back to mother earth, intact, by you.
Kev (and many others I knew and lost as parts of a statistic) wasn't an "off the shelf pilot". He worked hard for what he knew and could do and he was highly regarded as a responsible and knowledgeable, skilled pilot. He was an excellent instructor and friend. Neither was he afraid to share what he had learned, nor was he afraid to ask, in fear of looking dumb. He asked me for help on his website less than half a year before he died and he asked for others opinions before making decisions. He talked me out of my worst frustration with this forum, when I was a mouse-click away from shutting the site down. I miss this guy, but I am in a bad spot, like many website owners who have "members". There's lots of people I've come to respect and value - and the clock is ticking.
Here's my tip for anyone who flies any airplane with modifications that change the behavior of the aircraft:
You are not a test pilot.
Unless you are (*you'll be alone, hopefully*) you have a responsibility towards the people who fly with you, to know EXACTLY what this airplane can and cannot do. In some cases your employer has a responsibility to make sure you know and can handle any particular airframe, before you carry people around in it. 85% of accidents are investigated in perfect CAVOK. You owe it to the people you leave behind, to be on your very best F'ing game, anytime you fly. Don't let them have doubts about your commitment and common sense. Kevin had both, he just made a mistake.
I understand the pressure involved in commercial flying, not as a bush pilot, but as a commercial pilot who was expected to decide on behalf of people who trust their life to him. Quite a feeling, much different from being a driver, for example. There is no shame in a go around, there is no shame in declining any flight, for almost any reason. Its ALL you. There is no shame in being alive and on the ground rather than wishing for the same to be true while flying marginal conditions in a marginal airplane for less than good reasons. Is a life depending on your being on time? Are we at war? No? Then slow the F down and think before you act.
I remember and and live by the rules of the three E's. Environment, Equipment and Ego.
Surviving inclement weather (Environment), with a plane you don't fully know quite yet (Equipment) requires humility (Ego) to be survivable.
Any two of those E's can be geared against you and you still stand a chance to walk away.
Accidents we get to witness or experience are an opportunity for us to pause and think.
Have we lost the edge? Should we take a break? Are we asking for trouble? I don't know a single good pilot who's never asked that question.
Who do we ask? Our dead comrades, who supposedly know? I wish I could talk to Kevin today!
He'd have answers and pointers I didn't expect. He'd be brutally honest and kick my ass. I'd prefer that over the hole he left.
Moral of the story: Fly that plane. Get to know it. Feel it. Let it show you what it can and cannot do...but, at a safe altitude!
ACCEPT the boundaries. These are YOUR boundaries and these boundaries differentiate between a beating heart from one that has stopped.
Sorry for bringing an emotional spin to a factual data topic. Think about it - and tell your thoughts.
--- No long post without answering some questions ---
I learned this from a AG Pilot:
Vx = Best Angle (Best possible altitude gain over any given distance)
Vy = Best Rate (Best ft/min climb rate, as in getting up high quickly)
Both are good speeds. The best speed is the one that allows you to finish the flight without any sudden stoppage or hitting shit.
For a float plane or seaplane - anytime I am operating in an area where V' Speeds are of importance, one of my E's is already geared against me. I will make a CONSCIOUS EFFORT and adjust my EGO right away, rather than waiting for the equipment to give me further trouble. The circling takeoff (or, using other terminology: extracting the maximum of positive control energy out of the plane, while still caught on the water) or the beloved "safety pass" (as in: overflying any intended field for landing, while under positive control and power) will help determine a go from a no go call. Both circumstances are shaped by JUDGEMENT.
Your mileage may vary.