Articles Tagged "Customer Feature"

First Time’s the Charm – Finding the Right First Floatplane

Many of Wipaire’s customers take advantage of additional services while new Wipline floats are being installed on their airplane. However, Wipaire also has an experienced aircraft sales department that can find your dream airplane, or find one that’s not quite perfect and transform it into your ideal aircraft by taking advantage of our in-house services. While many of our features focus on customers who purchased new floats, Barnaby worked with our aircraft sales team to select the right floatplane for his mission and is now a proud partner in a Cessna 185 on Wipline 3000 floats.

“This was an adventure,” Barnaby commented when describing how his aircraft search brought him to Wipaire. “I’ve been flying since I was a teenager and I always thought it would be great to fly an amphib. I watched Tales of the Golden Monkey as a kid, which featured a Grumman Goose, and I remember thinking how cool it was that you could go places that no one else could get into.”

Barnaby lives in upstate New York, and is near the heart of the spectacular Adirondack State Park. With a wealth of lakes, mountains, waterway access points, and remote places to unwind, he was looking for a floatplane to take on fishing and hunting trips. He wasn’t sure precisely what he wanted but found Wipaire’s knowledgeable staff to be key in his search.

“About a year ago, I started talking to some friends at a birthday party who had gotten into a partnership on a Cardinal. One of them knew of someone looking for a partner on an amphib, so I met Barry. We hit it off and we started looking at airplanes,” Barnaby recalled. “I knew very little about floatplanes to begin with. I started in on the Cessna 206 because of the useful load.”

“My experience with Bruce, Brittnie, and the whole Wipaire team was that they were trying to provide solutions that were going to work for me and my partner Barry,”

Barnaby

Barnaby continued, “I first got acquainted with Wipaire when I called about a 206 Brittnie Brink (Cessna 206 and 182 sales) was representing. The thing that struck me right off the bat was that Brittnie is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on the 206—what will work, what won’t work, capacities and so on. I learned a lot about floatplanes from her. For me as a novice, that was of tremendous value.”

Barnaby and his partner’s goals in an aircraft were to find an amphibious airplane with a useful load close to 1,000 pounds, IFR certified, with minimal modifications or upgrades required. “In our experience, 206s that met our criteria were hard to find,” Barnaby noted. “Brittnie explained the dynamics of that particular marketplace, like strong demand in South America, the necessary combination of float design and power plant to meet our needs, and so on. We even looked at importing a Canadian aircraft but the process was intimidating and possibly expensive.”

Many airplanes didn’t offer everything Barnaby and Barry wanted, so they kept looking. “One of the key things I really appreciate is when an airplane you look at is well-represented. I doubt many buyers have the time to go through everything thoroughly to know what the airplane is really like. Having someone experienced like Brittnie review the aircraft beforehand brought value. My experience with Wipaire is that you’re very meticulous in deciding what airplanes to take on and represent; not every aircraft will make the cut.” As for working with Wipaire’s sales department, Barnaby commented “It was nice to know that I was working with a division of a company that is the largest amphibious float manufacturer in the world. All of that bodes well for the buyer. It was especially valuable for me as a first-time buyer—I didn’t want to have a bad experience with an airplane, especially after I purchased it.”

As Barnaby and Barry’s floatplane search continued, Barnaby earned his seaplane rating at Jack Brown’s in Winter Haven, Florida in April of 2015. Along the way, the two expanded their considerations to a Cessna 185. Barry had significant experience in 185s on floats as he had previously owned one. As Wipaire frequently has 185s for sale, Barnaby and Barry began communicating with Bruce Thoele, Wipaire’s sales representative that handles aircraft such as the de Havilland Beaver, Cessna 180/185s, and Aviat Huskies.

“My experience with Bruce, Brittnie, and the whole Wipaire team was that they were trying to provide solutions that were going to work for me and my partner Barry,” Barnaby stated. “We were presented options within our budget, sometimes including modifications and upgrades. That’s something too—Wipaire has the ability to do a lot of modifications on an aircraft so if we found a plane that needed modifications, we could have that taken care of at one location. It turned out we had GAMI injectors installed on our aircraft after we closed on the purchase. Bruce Thoele coordinated all the work for us.”

Getting through the purchasing process—title search, escrow, and so on—we didn’t even worry about that. Working through a broker provides a tremendous sense of comfort.

When a 1983 Cessna 185 on Wipline 3000 amphibious floats became available, Barnaby and Barry paid attention. “It really looked turnkey—the paint was in really good condition, and the airplane had a number of desirable modifications as well. The panel was one of the best I’ve ever seen, plus the pairing of the Wipline 3000 float on the 185 is a really great match. It was an airplane we could just go fly instead of spending money on it.”

“We closed on the airplane in September. Getting through the purchasing process—title search, escrow, and so on—we didn’t even worry about that. Working through a broker provides a tremendous sense of comfort. You guys have done this so many times,” added Barnaby.

“Obviously, I didn’t have much floatplane experience since I had just gotten my rating in April,” Barnaby said. “For insurance purposes, I needed to get 10 hours of dual instruction in a 185. I worked with Brian Addis (Lake & Air Flight Instructor/Designated Pilot Examiner) for a few days and flew off the time. We went through all of the airplane’s paperwork and I was able to learn a lot about this new-to-me airplane. It was really great to have a chance to fly with Brian. Wipaire has the facilities to do modifications and training, and it makes it possible to really have a coordinated experience for the buyer. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about how to get the insurance requirements met.”

Soon, Barnaby was on his way home. “I was able to call Brian on the way back to New York with questions about the aircraft performance on the cross country and Brian always made himself available. It is great to know I have a partner with Wipaire in terms of supporting me after the sales transaction. It’s been a really fun experience.”

Now that the airplane is home in New York, Barnaby reports that he is very much looking forward to bringing friends to go fishing, hunting, and camping. Since fall has arrived in the region, it sounds like Barnaby has a lot of planning and daydreaming to do over the winter!

Years in the Making: Ray Cook’s Grand Champion Super Cub

Ray Cook, builder and owner of an award-winning 1959 Piper PA-18 Super Cub, might actually have avgas running through his veins in place of blood. “My dad started teaching me to fly when I was 14 in his J3 Cub, and I soloed on my 16th birthday in his Cessna 175,” Ray recalls. “I still own the Cessna and taught both of my sons to fly in it. My nephews are also active pilots.”

Ray attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, and earned his Airframe & Powerplant mechanic certificate while there. He worked through all of his ratings and worked first as a flight instructor. From there, he upgraded to the right seat at a regional airline, and moved through the ranks as he gained experience and flight time. Ray currently flies internationally for a major US-based airline.

With down time between trips flying for the airline and an A&P certificate in hand, Ray began restoring aircraft in 1998. He started with a 1946 Taylorcraft which won a bronze Lindy at EAA Airventure Oshkosh in 2001. His next project was a J3 Cub like the one he learned to fly in. This Cub was purchased as a wrecked project. Ray finished the Cub in 2005 and the airplane won another bronze Lindy for Ray’s collection.

“I met Super Cub owners during the J3 rebuild process, and thought that a Super Cub project might not be that bad since I had already done a J3. I had only flown a Super Cub once before, but the project just kind of evolved,” Ray commented. “Turns out, they’re really not that similar.”

Ray was awarded the highest award the EAA gives—a gold Lindy as Grand Champion in the contemporary category (aircraft manufactured 1956-1970)

N4273S came to the Cook family as another project, which Ray found on Barnstormers and Supercub.org. Located in Moorhead, Minnesota, the aircraft was in pieces, with the wings, gear, and engine removed. Ray rented a U-Haul truck in Moorhead and brought the airplane home knowing he wanted to put it on floats. However, floats were still a long way into the future.

“I had the intention of putting the Airframes Alaska 4” widebody fuselage on from the beginning, so I didn’t really care about the fuselage that came with the project,” Ray notes. “The project had come with new tailfeathers, but the wings were pretty rough. They had a STOL kit installed on them which I didn’t really care for. I found a set of new, never-used squared Dakota Cub wings for sale, and bought those.”

Ray decided he wanted to upgrade many of the original components of the aircraft and added items like extended-range fuel tanks, a new fuel selector valve, and high-pressure brake master cylinders (when the airplane isn’t on its Wipline 2100 amphibious floats, it’s resting on 31” Alaskan Bushwheels). Additionally, Ray was planning ahead for float installation. He worked with Wipaire’s regional sales manager for the eastern United States/Canada, Dan Gutz, to take delivery of Wipaire’s 2,000 lb gross weight kit along with the hydraulic system components. This allowed Ray to do all of the installation work before the airplane was covered, making for a clean and painless install.

“I was really hustling to make Oshkosh last year,” Ray notes. “I got the airplane out of my pole barn at home and over to the hangar at the airport on July 1st. We still had to assemble the airplane, rig it, test fly it, and address any issues.”

Five days before the show, N4273S was assembled. However, it wasn’t all home free from there—the days leading up to the show were spent doing minor tweaks, investigating fuel leaks, changing the battery, and even pulling the engine. “I was really wondering if I was going to make it or not,” Ray admits. “Thankfully, everything got done in time. It was a lot of fun—it’s always fun showing up there [Oshkosh] with a new airplane.”

Ray’s efforts in the restoration did not go unnoticed. He was awarded the highest award the EAA gives—a gold Lindy as Grand Champion in the contemporary category (aircraft manufactured 1956-1970).

With a fresh Lindy in hand, Ray returned home to fly his Super Cub on wheels for the rest of the summer of 2014 and through the winter. Shod with 31” Alaskan Bushwheels, the Super Cub and Ray went exploring on frozen lakes and snowmobile trails. When spring rolled around, it was time for the airplane to come up to Wipaire’s facility in South St. Paul, Minnesota. The floats were installed and Ray took the opportunity to fly with Brian Addis, senior flight instructor for Wipaire sister company Lake & Air. “I was glad I did,” Ray adds. “I had gotten my seaplane rating back when I was in college and had seaplane experience, but I hadn’t flown Wiplines before. I had also never flown amphibs before, so I was grateful to fly with Brian.”

Ray continues, “The way the thing handles in the water is just unbelievable. The nose comes up, it kind of rolls forward on the step and flies right away. The water’s always choppy where I fly due to boat traffic and the floats handle it really well. I’m really impressed and really happy with them. Dan was great to work with throughout the process. On any issues that did come up, Dan stepped up to the plate and took care of things.”

Now that this Super Cub has its webbed feet, what are Ray’s plans?

“First off,” he says, “as soon as I get a long weekend, my wife and I are going to head north and just see where we end up.” Beyond that, Ray intends to visit friends and family in the Midwest. “At one point,” he adds, “and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fit it in, I’d like to go to Alaska with the airplane—it’s definitely in the thought process!”

“The way the thing handles in the water is just unbelievable. The nose comes up, it kind of rolls forward on the step and flies right away.”

Customer Feature – Ted Krahenbuhl

Ted Krahenbuhl is a Wipaire customer who flies an American Champion Scout 8GCBC with either Wipline 2100A amphibious floats, Wipline AirGlide C3000A skis or 31″ Alaskan Bushwheel tires.

“When I decided to experience the freedom of bush flying, I was welcomed into a small group of elite engineers, mechanics and pilots.

What planted the idea of flying bush planes in my mind was seeing pictures of working aircraft in Alaska. Noticing that tail draggers like Piper Cubs, Cessna C180s, and de Havillands used floats, skis, fat tires etc., it seemed very easy: just get a used airplane, buy some fat tires, skis, and floats. Done. Well, after some looking, I realized I had no clue on how specialized floats, skis and bushwheels are. I was going to be joining an elite group of pilots and mechanics. And I needed a lot of help.

After being introduced to bush flying by BackCountry Aviation in Idaho, they introduced me to the American Champion Scout (8GCBC). It had the performance I was looking for; 70 gallons of fuel, 2100# gross (2600# restricted), composite propeller, and headroom! Alaskan Bushwheel 31” tires were installed and I received my tailwheel endorsement in my own Scout in Idaho.

Arriving at Wipaire, was like finding the "Emerald City." Wipaire had everything needed for turning the Scout into a beloved Swiss Army Knife of the skies.

Ted Krahenbuhl

Floats and skis would be a challenge. There is only one manufacturer of amphibious floats for the American Champion Scout—Wipaire, Inc.. Flying to St. Paul from the west coast, with 27 hours on the airframe, and arriving at Wipaire, was like finding the “Emerald City.” Wipaire had everything needed for turning the Scout into a beloved Swiss Army Knife of the skies. I purchased the two STCs (for floats and skis), and had a panel upgrade. Wipaire is a full service shop, training and manufacturing operation.

Now the fun begins, learning. I took off across the USA with amphibious floats heading for California. What a wonderful way to travel; most lakes in California are very seaplane friendly. Nice to be able to stop, jump in the water and continue on! Boating and flying, then landing at an airport was remarkable.

As winter approached, the challenge of installing skis, and learning to fly them, really made me take notice. My goal: to install the Wipaire C3000A STC and learn to fly them alone from my hangar in Oregon. The insurance company had good news, no endorsement needed and no premium increase. They gave me the green light to fly skis by myself! With Wipaire’s support I installed the C3000As using my A&P license. I then flew across the Cascade Mountains and made my first solo landing with skis. It was a great feeling. However, it is highly recommended to get instruction first.

Ted's Scout on skis for the winter.

The bushplane I dreamed about was now a reality. Being lucky enough to find experienced and reliable companies to support me in the beginning made it possible. The freedom of operating in areas with no airport is outstanding! Landing in fresh snow, playing in a mountain lake during the hot summer and then, at the end of the day, pushing my little bird into a safe hangar, it’s a great feeling.”

Upward Bound – Tropic Ocean Airways Expands Service with Wipline® Floats

Seaplane airlines are a rare and unique breed, but this Wipline float operator is growing to meet demand not even the founders could have imagined.

“When I was in college, I read Jimmy Buffet’s book Where is Joe Merchant?, which features a US Navy pilot-turned-seaplane pilot. I was 19 at the time, and I decided that’s what I was going to do,” recalls Rob Ceravolo, founder and CEO of Tropic Ocean Airways. Rob went on to serve as a naval aviator, flying the F-14 Tomcat, F-18E Super Hornet, and F-5N Tiger II. He attended the Navy’s TOPGUN Fighter Weapons School Adversary course and returned to his squadron as an air combat instructor. “My original plan was to retire from the Navy and start a seaplane airline,” says Rob. “But in the fall of 2009 I read Richard Branson’s Screw It, Let’s Do It and decided that, well, screw it, I’m going to do it now. I then went to get my seaplane rating at Jack Brown’s and I met Nick, my instructor, and now our vice president. The day of my checkride I attended the National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando and met the team at Wipaire for the first time to talk about this dream. I called Nick two months after my seaplane rating to start Tropic.”

Rob continues, “Instead of retiring from the Navy, I became a reservist after 10 years of experience. It took Nick and I a year and a half to get our Part 135 certificate. We bought a Cessna 206 on Wipline 3450 amphibs as our first airplane…the same plane featured in the movie Fool’s Gold. Nick moved to Key West for Tropic and our first office was in his living room. When it was time to receive our certificate, he met with the FAA right there—in his living room. I was in Tampa when Nick called to tell me the good news. At the time, I was stationed at CENTCOM at MacDill AFB, commuting on a bicycle because I had sold everything to start Tropic—my house, my car, and my motorcycle. Now we have seven airplanes. In fact, on March 11th we just celebrated what we like to call ‘Fly Tropic Day,’ our four-year anniversary of receiving our 135 certificate in Nick’s living room.”

From the initial concept, Tropic Ocean Airways has grown to a fleet which includes the original Cessna 206 on Wipline 3450 amphibious floats, two Cessna Caravans on Wipline 8000 amphibious floats, two new Cessna Grand Caravan EXs on Wipline 8750 amphibious floats, and one new Cessna Grand Caravan EX on wheels. Tropic started with only one domestic route (Miami to Key West) and added their first international route in June 2011 from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini, where they made history as the first international commercial seaplane to land in Bimini in over five years. They now typically service 20 locations throughout the Bahamas and Florida, though a Tropic traveler’s destinations are hardly limited. In fact, if you’re not headed to an island destination, they even offer direct-to-yacht provision delivery. The airline operates as far north as the northeast Abacos down to the southern Exumas during their busy season and repositions an aircraft at the East River seaplane base in New York in the off season to provide service to East Hampton.

“Amphibious floats allow us to meet our guests at the end of their airline travel and whisk them away directly to their vacation destination.”

Today, Tropic Ocean Airways is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The location provides a perfect jumping-off point for the airline, as major airline destinations such as Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and Orlando are all within a short flight. Tropic operates the wheeled Grand Caravan EX for these flights to save travelers the hassle of renting a car and driving. From Fort Lauderdale, travelers can hop to popular Florida spots such as Key West and Little Palm Island as well as international destinations in the Bahamas. Tropic’s Bahamian routes are extensive and range from as close as Bimini to as far as Long Island.

“The versatility afforded by Wipline amphibious floats is key to our business,” Rob notes. “Our whole mission is to provide a personalized travel experience that’s free of the hassle and inconvenience of modern air travel. Amphibious floats allow us to meet our guests at the end of their airline travel and whisk them away directly to their vacation destination.”

Wipaire’s worldwide reputation and 55 years of experience building a wide range of floats reassured Rob that Tropic’s pilots and customers would be in good hands. “When you think aircraft floats, there’s really only one name that comes to mind, and that’s Wipaire. Tropic Ocean Airways is proud to exclusively operate Wipline floats,” Rob states. “We’ve added two brand-new Cessna Grand Caravan EXs in the last few months on Wipline 8750 floats. We also operate two Caravans on Wipline 8000 floats.” Of the differences between the two float designs, Rob says, “The 8750 floats have increased our completion rates because they handle rough water so well. We’re able to safely operate in conditions we wouldn’t be comfortable in with the 8000s.”

Tropic Ocean Airways was also one of the first operators to install Wipaire’s exhaust deflector for the Caravan series. Only one Grand Caravan EX was equipped with the deflector at first to test the effectiveness of the modification, and the difference in aircraft cleaning time has been described as “night and day.” The deflector keeps the aircraft remarkably cleaner than its fleetmates, improving the appearance of the aircraft and drastically reducing the man-hours to clean it each night. The difference is so pronounced that Tropic is equipping their entire fleet of Caravans with the exhaust deflector.

In addition, Rob notes that “The deflector has actually opened up our wind capabilities because it allows us to approach the dock from either side.” After receiving their aircraft on floats, Tropic wastes no time engaging in a detailed and rigorous maintenance program to ensure the aircraft and floats remain in top condition. “Safety is a top priority, and safety begins with top-notch maintenance. I learned during my time in the Navy that properly-maintained machines are crucial to being able to complete the mission. At Tropic, we recognize this and work to live up to our customers’ expectations by not only meeting FAA standards, but exceeding them,” Rob commented. “To combat the saltwater impact on the aircraft, we wash the airframe and floats with fresh water every night. We follow that with a salt-removing solution and then another fresh water rinse. This ensures the airframe and components like landing gear enjoy a long and trouble-free life.”

“Seaplanes are unique, they’re fun, they’re romantic, and our Wipline-equipped fleet has grown with us as we expand to meet customer demand.”

A desire to provide first-class service to customers drives Tropic’s philosophies and operations. The airline operates out of the Sheltair private terminal at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport to provide a comfortable environment for their guests. Instead of security checkpoints and lines, Tropic travelers are greeted with a welcoming attitude and a helpful smile. The team at Tropic works with guests to develop a seamless travel experience, including baggage storage if needed. Private charters are also available and can range from a short scenic tour to a day-long adventure.

“If you fly with us, you’re going to have a good time,” Rob says with a smile. “The experience of the flight is at the core of everything we do. If you’re not having fun, we’ll do everything we can to turn that around.”

As you might imagine, seaplane flying in a tropical paradise for a company focused on delivering happy customers is a dream job. “We’re very selective about our pilots,” adds Rob. “Working for Tropic is so much more than flying an airplane from Point A to Point B. Our pilots are part of a team that shares a singular goal—to give our guests a personalized and unique experience that they’ll never forget. Everyone from our sales team to our pilots to our maintenance team is a part of that mission. Because of this, a customer service attitude is hugely important.” In addition to a helpful attitude, pilots must be safety-centric. “We crew our flights with two pilots for added safety,” Rob mentions. “Our standard operating procedures are based on those of a Navy fighter squadron and our safety department is run by a U.S. Naval Aviator with a Naval Safety School background and years of aircraft carrier experience. Although not required by the FAA for Part 135 operations, we are building a Safety Management System from the ground up.”

Tropic Ocean Airways’ Wipline floats open up limitless destinations, including private homes, yachts, and exclusive resorts. The convenience that floats offer can’t be matched. A Tropic customer can enjoy a short check-in, relaxing flight (yes, there’s leg room), and arrive right at their destination. The Tropic formula has proven to be a winning one, with rapid growth since receiving their operating certificate in 2011.

“Seaplanes are unique, they’re fun, they’re romantic, and our Wipline-equipped fleet has grown with us as we expand to meet customer demand,” Rob states. “Speaking of romance, you might have noticed a Tropic Ocean Airways Caravan on Wipline 8000 floats in the most recent season of The Bachelor.”

As for future plans, Rob says there are exciting things on the horizon. “We’re always working on new destinations, so stay tuned for announcements from us. Our flights now include scheduled destination flights*, cargo flights, and even medical comfort evacuations. Our newest destination is Havana, Cuba, which we launched just a few weeks ago. When we landed, the local residents came up to the airplane and told us they had never seen a seaplane before, except in the movies. It’s definitely an exciting new opportunity, and our Havana partners are able to facilitate visas and permits for those looking to experience Cuba.”

In sum, Rob says, “We really appreciate our relationship with Wipaire. We couldn’t have done it without working together. Wipline floats have taken us everywhere we’ve ever dreamed of and then some.”