Ruth and David Taisch are the people you really want to have as next-door neighbors, because not only are they two very nice and interesting people, they have the best toys, too.
For starters, there’s the big model railroad behind their traditional Florida-style stucco home, complete with what looks like miles of G-gauge trains, tracks, trestles and tunnels. The sprawling complex, complete with mountains, waterways, bridges, and towns with little handmade buildings, occupies most of the backyard, and is the realization of Ruth’s childhood dream. It’s her handiwork, mostly, along with a good bit of Dave’s directed hard labor.
Then, there’s the wonderful workshop and drive-in train house for off-season railroad storage, a beautiful fleet of R/C sailboats, a canoe, bicycles obviously meant for serious cyclists. There’s the beautiful classic runabout motorboat on the boatlift out front on Lake Harris, the 19-foot Pearson Ensign sailboat, and the ever-so-enviable Mooney Ovation2.
The piece de resistance, the best toy in the collection, to any wannabe seaplane pilot is the lovely blue-and white Lake Amphibian, residing on its own clever rotating platform, hovering over the sparkling lake. It’s only steps from their front door.
That seaplane lift was a modified boat lift, the turntable platform added to make it Lake-friendly. Taisch modified it further, to accommodate the variable water levels and wave action on Lake Harris.
He can preflight his Lake, then, without getting his feet wet, though it does require a little climbing skill to check the engine and oil level.
David Taisch sold his manufacturing company some years ago, and in the intervening time, has devoted his life to collecting experiences.
He and Ruth spent over seven years living aboard and cruising their 40-foot Passport 40 sailboat from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine, then back down the east coast, and to Bermuda, and the Caribbean all the way to Venezuela, and back again. Twice.
When they sold that boat, they, as Dave put it, “lived in the trunk of a Honda Prelude for a year and a half,” while touring the National Parks out west, and looking for another live-aboard sailboat.
Finding none that suited, the couple moved into a 40-foot motor home for another five and a half years, before deciding to settle down with a house on a lake in central Florida, and acquiring all the “stuff” fixed-base homeowners acquire.
The Taisches live four miles from downtown Tavares, Florida, which bills itself as America’s Seaplane City. They live just a short hop from dozens of other pretty mid-Florida lakes, well furnished with waterfront towns, convenient restaurants, and clubs. Taisch reels off a list of intriguing destination restaurants that make it sound as if the couple might only rarely eat at home.
Water-flying conjures up all sorts of exotic images. Never mind all those floatplane ads, though, the ones you’ve seen with turquoise tropical water, white sand, and pretty people in bikinis and snorkeling gear.
Dave Taisch isn’t about to land his amphibious baby in saltwater. So, no, he hasn’t flown it to the Keys or the Bahamas. He says there’s more than enough fresh water in central Florida to go around.
Though he has flown it as far as Oklahoma to a “splash-in,” the Lake isn’t an ideal cross-country bird, he readily admits. Its speed and its fuel efficiency leave something to be desired, so when they go cross country, they fly their Mooney, of course.
Taisch has been a licensed pilot for more than 50 years, having caught the flying bug as a teenager. His coveted Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award acknowledges that remarkable fact, coupled with his many charitable and aviation-boosting flying activities.
He was, for a time, very active in both EAA Young Eagles flying and several aviation organizations devoted to conservation oversight, but now his volunteer efforts go mainly toward medical transportation flights. As active Angel Flight Southeast pilots, the Taisches fly some 12 to 15 missions a year.
When Ruth, a now-retired CPA, took a shine to Dave, she realized that flying was his passion, and she might as well share it. She earned her private ticket, but is content to fly right-seat these days.
“He loves flying so much, I hate to take any of it away from him,” she says. “I navigate, and switch radio frequencies when it’s helpful, but it really is his thing.”
Dave Taisch is a tireless Mooney activist, and has organized the Florida Mooney Pilots Association, which meets one Saturday a month for lunch and Mooniac camaraderie at an airport someplace in the Sunshine State.
It’s really quite simple, he explains his obsession over things with wings. “I’ve always loved aviation, I just like doing it. For a lot of people, they fly to get someplace, but I enjoy the flying itself. I take a lot of pride in flying an airplane reasonably well.”
What attracted the Taisches to the Lake Amphibian? It boiled down to a personal choice. Some people like flying boats, like the Lake, says Taisch.
In his opinion, “The Lake’s a better boat than most seaplanes, especially 200-hp seaplanes, when it’s on the water. Getting a floatplane to a dock, you have to be agile enough to jump out of the airplane down onto a dock, quickly and accurately, to keep it from drifting away, or crashing into the surrounding structures. I only beach the Lake, or lower the gear and ramp it. I stay away from docks. It keeps me from getting into trouble doing something I shouldn’t do. With the Lake, I can just taxi up the ramp there at Tavares, open those big doors, and step out onto solid dry land.”
In his opinion, his Lake is also a better airplane than many float planes. When it’s in the air, he says, it generally offers better performance than amphibious float airplanes of its size, because there’s comparatively less weight and drag to haul around. The Lake Amphibian does, compared to other amphibians, look rather more like a sports car with wings than its pontoon-festooned cousins do.
The Lake Amphibian is a pretty sexy-looking airplane, both in the air and on the water. It’s even pretty perched up there on its custom-built platform in the Taisches’s dock on Lake Harris. Clearly, to people who are also Mooney pilots, looks and performance both matter.
Why, yes, they would like to have it all. Can you blame them?
Over the years of airplane ownership, Dave Taisch has learned some practical lessons to pass along, some of them the hard way, hints which might be helpful to any pilot looking to expand the options.
- Get a good prebuy inspection by someone knowledgeable in that kind of airplane.
- And something that most people don’t think about, and don’t want to spend money on, is hiring a qualified escrow agent. “When I bought the Mooney I was just the second owner, why would you fool with an escrow agent, with only 80 hours on the airplane? Turned out the previous owner had bought the plane as a corporation, and then didn’t keep that company current. If I’d bought it from a non-existent entity, sorting that out after the fact would have been a disaster. The escrow agent wouldn’t give the seller his money until he brought the corporation and paperwork up to date.”
- A thorough title search is also important. “The first time I bought an airplane, I didn’t do a thorough title check. As it turned out, several owners ago, somebody filed a lien. There was no current lien, but we didn’t find out about the old lien from a previous owner. When we went to sell it, the buyer found the old lien. When they went to get the lien released, they found that the company that filed it was, by then, out of business. That tied up the transaction for months.”
- Learning to fly any new airplane well has its share of challenges, but they’re even more important to address with a plane like the Lake. “You need a good check out with a type-specific instructor. If you’re going to operate on water, you need a checkout with somebody who has a lot of water experience. If you’re buying a Lake, you need an instructor with a lot of Lake time, and moreover, you want somebody with a lot of takeoffs and landings in that airplane.”
- For the Lake, there’s an insurance course you must take in order to be insured. It’s quite extensive and in depth, and you need to go through it with a Lake-qualified instructor.