Recently, our company made the Florida move to pursue a stronger interest in angel investing startups related to our media network strategy. Since sixty-eight cents of every film media production dollar is typically spent in Southeast Florida, a move to Miami made sense. Previously, our company had offices in Naples, Florida. For whatever reason, seaplane operations seemed less important than perhaps the Caribbean island hopping adventures available from my new location in Coconut Grove.
The first thing on the water that you learn from Miami’s bay is that tides matter in a vast sets of channels that ebb and flow. After an initial SeaRay cruise and one jet ski adventure, we learned that there are special water lanes dredged for the once prominent Pan Am seaplane base. This romantic period in aviation lasted between 1934 and roughly 1954 within Southeast Florida. While my floatplane rating was completed near Talkeetna, Alaska on Piper Pacer Floats, many of these flights were on planes that came in belly-first. Although the days of commercial seaplane operations have past, Miami still has an active charter system with daily flights in and out of the bay to places like the Bahamas.
I think that it is fair to say that floatplane flying is still one of the most peaceful and enjoyable pastimes available to any pilot fortunate to log that time. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this. First, with seaplane flying, there’s never going to be a great drone or autopilot substitute for stick and yoke feel in and out of the water. When you first learn to “get up on the step” you realize that you’re literally converting a boat into a plane with throttle and skill. No one has to remind a student pilot to “aviate first” when you’re about to complete a glassy water landing. Second, it is impossible not to feel bonded to nature when you’re on floats – at the dock, in the lake, over the Keys, or watching the sun make another pass to the back side of the earth. Third, when you are flight planning on floats, you’re almost always going somewhere to relax or have a good time. Fishing a virgin lake near Mt. McKinley in Alaska. Making a run over Key Largo to meet some friends after a long day of fishing. Unlike our many days as private pilots hurrying up and waiting on a cold tarmac somewhere, typically a floatplane day is one goes with the flow.
I have found that many people who live close to the water have never tried a seaplane excursion. If you’re in Coconut Grove, give it a shot.