SUN ‘n FUN 2018 ended a record event on a Sunday. Traveling home Monday, I had less than a 24-hour turnaround before jetting across the Atlantic for Aero Friedrichshafen 2018, which started Wednesday. As on a roller coaster, all I could do was hold on tightly.
For an aviation buff, the month of April is something like being a kid in a candy store. So many fun airplanes. So few days to absorb the images, stories, people, and excitement.
Sandwiched in the partial day between getting home from SUN ‘n FUN and blasting off to Europe, one more cool thing happened: A gathering of Light-Sport seaplanes.
Seven brands were invited by Spruce Creek Fly-In airport manager Joe Friend, although rather ironically, two that are based closest to the Florida fly-in community were unable to make it — the local dealer for American Legend‘s AmphibCub and Brazil’s SeaMax, with a U.S. base on the campus of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
The five brands that did make the effort immediately after SUN ‘n FUN were rewarded with a beautiful day and keen interest in their amphibious flying machines.
Joe knows light seaplanes. He’s built at least one Searey from a kit and he used to fly it daily from Spruce Creek to a lake in Tavares, Florida, where Progressive Aerodyne manufactures the industry-leading Searey. For a couple years, Joe was CEO of the operation making him highly aware of this niche of special aircraft.
A Waterbird Gathering
Not unlike SUN ‘n FUN or Aero, the waterbird gathering extended the candy store experience. You might want to buy them all, but like that kid, your wallet probably isn’t big enough for that. Therefore, the chance to compare them side-by-side was very useful.
As you can see in the photos, Joe’s effort — and that of several vendors — paid off with a substantial crowd examining the selection.
For someone in the business of selling airplanes, Spruce Creek is what some would call a target-rich environment. That translates to lots of pilots, pilots with cash, and pilots with places to keep or build a light seaplane. To call Spruce Creek pilots “enthusiastic” would be a major understatement.
So despite the challenges of making an appearance immediately after a major week-long air show like SUN ‘n FUN, five companies were lined up and ready.
Spruce Creek Fly-In — an airport community I call home — quarters an estimated 700 airplanes, more than nearly any other airport I’ve visited in a career that has taken me to more aerodromes than I care to count. The chance of a sale or two or more is what prompted so many vendors to show up immediately on the heels of an air show that wore them after seven long days.
Of course, not all resident airplane owners were present. Some are focused on other airplane types. Spruce Creek boasts aircraft ranging from ultralights to plenty of Cessnas, Pipers, and Cirruses to twins to business jets and even a few warbirds, plus arguably the largest fleet of Van’s Aircraft kits in the world.
Yet in a warm climate with bodies of water all over the place, and a generally supportive atmosphere for recreational aviation, no wonder all seven invited light LSA or kit seaplane vendors have bases in Florida. The state is rich with places to enjoy affordable, well-equipped, well-performing and beautifully-finished seaplanes and their appeal is obvious.
Congratulations to airport manager, Joe Friend, for arranging this gathering and thanks to each the vendors for attending.
The Seaplanes on Hand
Progressive Aerodyne Searey
The most established of the collection is this veteran design from Progressive Aerodyne in nearby Tavares, Florida (about 45 minutes north west of Orlando). Despite its long history and nearly 700 satisfied customers — mostly kit-built until recent years — Searey has benefited from many changes and upgrades.
It has the distinction of being one of the FAA’s success stories regarding how well the company prepared for its audit to become a fully-built LSA.
Searey was also one of the first LSA to win Type Design Approval in China.
Lockwood Aircraft AirCam
The lone floatplane of the group is also the only twin engine of the group, yet this larger-than-life airplane still qualifies as a light aircraft, easily so.
Given its modest weight, the presence of two Rotax 9-series engines on this kit makes it a formidable performer, but one that can use that capability at slow speeds, making the airplane an absolute delight for the kind of low-elevation flying that many others aircraft should not attempt.
Around 200 are flying. Kit builder Lockwood Aircraft is based in Sebring, Florida.
Aero Adventure Aventura S-17
The Aventura, seen here in its new S-17 configuration, dates back as far as the Searey but because of ownership changes the design evolved uniquely.
Originally known as the Buccaneer, it became the Aventura when Carlos Pereyra added his exceptional fiberglass skills to the hull.
Current owner Alex Rolinski has taken the design into the CAD age and beefed up its performance.
The S-17 model boasts a 117-horsepower AeroMomentum Suzuki-based engine, plus attractive options. The LSA has been attracting strong interest for Aero Adventure of Deland, Florida.
Scoda Aeronautica Super Petrel
One of the most unique entries is the bi-wing Super Petrel LS from Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil.
Another well-established model with a history involving Canada, the South American company has now opened a facility at the Ormond Beach Airport to support U.S. customers.
Powered by Rotax as are all these LSA seaplanes, except for Aventura S-17, Super Petrel uses side-by-side seating in an aircraft with excellent manners in the water.
Icon Aircraft A5
Thanks to sophisticated, California-style marketing, Icon Aircraft A5 is one of the best known models in the Light-Sport Aircraft space even though it is the newest of this group. The company’s savvy proved itself as the model drew steady interest during the hours on display.
Manufactured in California, this example is based in Tampa, Florida, where Icon Aircraft operates a training and demonstration facility. A5 flew in from beautiful bayside Peter O. Knight Airport.