39th Annual International Seaplane Fly-In 2012
Greenville Maine might take a note from the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem about Paul Revere…” one if by land, two if by sea”. The town is fortunate to have a pair of community airports; the Greenville Municipal Airport located on a hilltop just north of the town center and Greenville Seaplane Base, on a cove that the downtown embraces on the southern tip of Moosehead Lake. Nowadays you can announce your arrival over a UNICOM frequency, and forget the lanterns.
Away from any large city and highways, general aviation takes on important duties in the area such as transportation, recreation, and fire and forestry patrol. These two aforementioned airports were the main focus of the 39th Annual International Seaplane Fly-in, held during the weekend of September 6-9, 2012. Although most of the seaplane activity focused on Moosehead Lake and the seaplane base, the airport served as a parking and camping area for participants, arriving both by land and by lake.
The annual gathering occurs the weekend after Labor Day. Sponsored by the non-profit International Seaplane Fly-In Association, the Fly-In’s purpose is “…to provide aviation education (and a whole lot of fun!)to participants and spectators alike”. A scholarship is sponsored by the Association too, helping a high school graduate each year with college expenses towards an aviation career. The Fly-In hosts aviation contests such as the spot landing and short takeoff specialties, and the bush pilot relay. A static display of piston and turbine powered seaplanes was arranged at the base, along with a trade show housed in the main hangar. A mile of lakefront lawns and walkways were lined with local craft and food vendors. It is a late summer town fair with a heavy aviation accent for non-aviation people, and an interesting and friendly aviation event for pilots and aviation enthusiasts.
Being able to set up a lawn chair on the banks of the lake and be close to the flying activity, or walk around the uncontrolled airport and get close to the many planes tied down served as an educational experience for a lot of the spectators. Many people just don’t go to their nearest airport and watch airplanes fly for the fun of it, but here you could. Non-aviators could ask pilots their questions about flying, and many pilots could ask questions to the assembled seaplane-rated aviators about floatplane operations too.
Unfortunately, in 2012 the weather didn’t cooperate for the Fly-in. Low clouds and fog, gusty winds, and forecast severe weather kept many distant participants from splashing in for the weekend. Many local pilots and their airplanes were on hand though, from Cessnas and Maules on floats, to a Maine Forestry Service UH-1 helicopter that did a series of water drops over the bay to the spectators’ delight. The bush pilot relay was held despite the weather, where planes and canoeists taxi and paddle back and forth to a raft anchored in the middle of the harbor. Spectators got a chance to watch planes in action, and hear the roar and see the white water churned up by the planes as they tried to be the fastest out to the raft individually, and then, with the canoe lashed to the aircraft, back to the docks alongside the seaplane base. The winds began to gust towards the end of the relay, and the final participants had a tough time getting their planes to drift to a desired spot. A few pilots ascended from the choppy waters, and relayed weather reports that included strong turbulence and some wind shear nearby. The difficult conditions forced a postponement of the landing and takeoff contests on Saturday.
The weather wasn’t too bad for talking with many aviators or like-minded spectators though. After the flying on the lake ended early in the afternoon due to the weather, a trip up the hill to the airport doubled my time spent among airplanes. A Bombardier Canadair Challenger 300 departed soon after my arrival, and the Folsom DC-3, which is normally America’s largest floatplane, was back on conventional landing gear as the floats are under repair. Here I found a good number of conventionally configured aircraft with tents pitched alongside them, and a few floatplanes not in the water too.
The event was a great chance to do some “hangar flying” with very friendly people, and learn a lot about a unique and demanding part of aviation… seaplane and floatplane flying. Hopefully next year more people will be able to splash in as opposed to driving.