Photos by Janelle Sou Roberts
The Journal Gazette
Published: September 24, 2007 6:00 a.m.
Splash-In makes waves
Seaplane pilots, spectators mingle at Lake James event
By Abby Slutsky
ANGOLA – Boaters on Lake James spent as much time watching the sky Sunday as they did watching the water.
Seaplanes of every color and type flew low over the lake and wove between boats as part of the fifth annual Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association’s Lake James Splash-In, which was on the beach next to the Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park.
Nearly 20 planes flew in and out of the area, offering spectators on boats and ashore the chance to view seaplanes in action.
Pilots answered questions from spectators about their aircraft, which included float planes, which have pontoons mounted where the wheels would normally be; and amphibious aircraft, which can land on both water and land and have a boat-like body.
Children posed for photographs in front of still planes and watched in anticipation each time another plane descended onto the lake for a landing.
Angola resident Randy Strebig, president of the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association, said the Splash-In, the equivalent of a fly-in but on the water, offered seaplane pilots a chance to see each other and to promote goodwill toward seaplane flying.
Pilots from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio took to the skies above the lake, taking people for rides as boaters pulled their watercraft out of the way for takeoffs and landings and then closer to the shore to watch as the amphibious aircraft drove out of the water and onto the beach.
Seaplane pilot Charles Marshall of Elkhart said this year’s Splash-In was much better than last year’s, when rainy weather kept pilots grounded.
The Splash-In, Marshall said, is the “grand finale” of the 2007 water flying season in Indiana.
Other pilots, however, don’t let the end of summer stop them from enjoying their seaplanes.
Norman Fill of Birmingham, Mich., said he flies his seaplane down to Florida when winter comes to the Midwest.
Fill, who has been flying seaplanes for 14 years, said he wanted to be at the Lake James Splash-In to help show Indiana boaters and others that “seaplanes are friendly pastimes.”
And like boaters, seaplane pilots take their cues from the water.
Tom Kelley of Painesville, Ohio, said pilots watch the waves to get a sense of wind direction.
Kelley also said seaplanes offer more than just a chance to fly. They offer a chance for other outdoor activities.
“I’ve seen guys tie a canoe up between the floats and take it up to Canada (for fishing),” he said.
But along with promoting seaplanes, the Splash-In was a social opportunity, Strebig said. “Pilots have this inherent problem of always wanting to talk about flying,” he said.