Category | News and Articles

A Whole New Animal: This Custom Cessna 340 was Worth the Wait

Bruce, an owner-operator with a low-time 1980 Cessna 340, spent several months looking for someone to modernize and refresh the interior and exterior of his airplane. He had completed a major panel upgrade and was ready to make the rest of the aircraft similarly impressive. This makeover would encompass stripping the airplane and repainting it as well as completely refurbishing the interior.

Having seen some of Wipaire’s Caravan interiors, Bruce elected to contact Wipaire as he was evaluating options for services providers. After several interactions, Bruce was understandably anxious about the significant work scope and elected to visit Wipaire in person last November. “At the time, I was looking at several different shops. Everyone else was trying to sell me a cheap job, and I wanted a quality job.” To discuss the interior project, he met with Will Perez, our interiors manager.

“Will did a phenomenal job of diagnosing what I wanted,” Bruce commented. “He and Jim (Halfen, interiors shop supervisor) were able to transform the sketchy ideas I provided into a spectacular project. Within about an hour, we had settled on the concept that was used in the airplane.”

Bruce’s first concern was durability and how the interior would show wear. With bases in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Colorado, he frequently flies with his dogs and cat, and didn’t want a high-maintenance interior that would require constant upkeep. He knew he wanted darker colors that wouldn’t show wear easily, but didn’t have specific selections made. “Will showed me some darker colors of leather, and came up with the idea for the alligator-embossed leather for an accent. He and Jim also suggested a flecked carpet that doesn’t show dirt. They were alerting me to things that I wouldn’t have noticed on my own, which was fantastic.”

Will added, “This project was just fun. It was outside the standard material selections, and we really enjoyed working with Bruce to develop something unique. He identified with creating something that no one else had, and that’s always a lot of fun.”

While the aircraft was a well-kept, low-time airplane, several design features were beginning to reveal the airplane’s age. The seat upholstery style was outdated, so Will worked with Bruce to define what look and functionality was desired. “We made the seats close to two inches wider, while changing the headrest and seat back design. The result is a more streamlined and modern appearance that also provides more room. Since Bruce routinely travels with his family in this airplane, comfort and function are key considerations,” Will stated.
The seats feature a vintage-look leather that has rugged yet modern “lived in” look that doesn’t show wear easily. The seat back incorporates the alligator-embossed leather, which is also used on the sidewalls to maintain continuity throughout the interior. The headliner was refreshed with a neutral color that offsets the darker material choices and creates a refined atmosphere with plenty of light.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with it. It’s a real head-turner on the ramp.”

While Will’s team was updating the seats with new foam and covers, Wipaire’s paint team was working on a masterpiece of their own. “The airplane had a typical RAM paint scheme,” Bruce noted. “I wanted to get away from the dated horizontal lines and color. I met with Bill Jones (paint shop supervisor) and he put me in contact with Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers. Craig asked me what I didn’t like and had me send him some examples of airplanes that I did like during the development process.” Scheme Designers zeroed in on a design that Bruce liked and then Bill helped translate the scheme into actual paint color selections. “Bill sat down with me and went through paint chips. We would pick a few options and then go outside to see what they would actually look like on the airplane when it was on the ramp. I provided about 0.5% of the information, and Craig and Bill provided the other 99.5%.”

As with all paint jobs, proper stripping of old paint and prepping for the new finish makes all the difference in the quality of the end product. This means taking the airplane to bare metal and scrutinizing any imperfections or blemishes that may be discovered. “A good paint job on an airplane can last 15-20 years. If you don’t take the time to address any imperfections on the airframe, they’re going to be hidden under paint for years and may continue to deteriorate underneath otherwise nice-looking paint,” noted Bill.

“Bill warned me that we’d find some things when we peeled the airplane down. Even though it was well-maintained and didn’t have many hours, the airplane still had areas to be repaired,” Bruce remembered. “When Bill and his team found something, the communications were absolutely second to none. The blemishes were circled in color and included the description and price to fix them. It was very detailed and professional.” With Bruce’s exacting eye for quality, repairs to the airframe were made by Wipaire’s maintenance department, body work was performed by the paint team, and the avionics department addressed several antennae in need of repair. Bruce added, “I know the difference between concealing issues vs. the long-term benefit of addressing them. This airplane is new in every respect, and well worth the investment in time and money.”

Of the final product, Bruce says, “I couldn’t be more pleased with it. It’s a real head-turner on the ramp.” Looking at the pictures of interior and exterior, we think you’ll agree!

Good Seaplane Training During a Northern U.S. Winter.

It’s a typical winter situation for pilots in the Northern hemisphere. Your aircraft is tucked away in a snowed-in hangar and your instructor is in Florida, or some other winter retreat. How can you get beneficial recurrent training in your airplane during the cold winter months. There is a way; it’s not the same as flying with your task master but it is helpful none-the-less, and it’s free.

Here’s the way it goes: Light up the interior of your airplane in your nice warm hangar. Turn off the radio, your cell phone and your 72” wide-screen TV. Hide your car so as to leave no evidence you are there. Avoidance of visitors is best when you’re trying to focus on a learning experience. Take your place in the Captain’s seat and open your POH to the emergency procedures chapter; section 3 in most airplanes. Then, slowly go through each emergency procedure while touching the appropriate knobs, levers, and switches. Think critically about why the procedure is written the way it is. Approaching the procedures this way will raise questions which will lead you to the systems chapter; section 7 in most airplanes. This will lead you to a better understanding of your airplane. Count the number of emergency procedures for your airplane. For example, most Caravans have 51 emergency procedures, Cessna 152s have 15. There are 4 engine failure procedures for Caravans and 3 for Cessna 152s. Bunch the similar procedures together and ask this question: “What is the same and what is different among these procedures and why?”

Think about this educational experience for a moment. Prior to this, your exposure to emergency procedures includes flying the airplane or simulator while the instructor is guiding, prompting, or cueing. That means there is a lot going on and, true, it is great training but this method does little to enable the pilot to have a conceptual understanding of the procedure. Psychologists tell us it is difficult to capture cognitive understanding while performing what they call “side tasks.” We call it, “Flying the airplane while all this other stuff is going on.”

At the end of this exercise you should have a better understanding of your emergency procedures and the airplane’s systems. It may come in handy someday and the cost of this experience is just a little bit of time.

Come On In, the Water’s Fine

It’s a typical winter situation for pilots in the Northern hemisphere. Your aircraft is tucked away in a snowed-in hangar and your instructor is in Florida, or some other winter retreat. How can you get beneficial recurrent training in your airplane during the cold winter months. There is a way; it’s not the same as flying with your task master but it is helpful none-the-less, and it’s free.

Most pilots dismiss the idea of adding a seaplane rating to their certificate because they feel there is little chance of using it after the day of the check ride. It’s hard to argue with that logic but consider this: Most pilots that fly seaplanes now had the same expectation on the day of their check ride. Life is a conglomeration of unexpected opportunities and “chance” experiences, no matter how much control we think we have. In any case, it is an easy—and fun—rating to obtain, especially in the warm weather months.

Here are a few “getting started” suggestions: Find a copy of the “Seaplane Training Directory” published annually by the Seaplane Pilot’s Association. Seaplane schools are listed by state. Concerns about the quality of the instructor can be dismissed. If the instructor has reached “insurance approved seaplane instructor” status, it is very likely that instructor is quite competent. Personalities and training methods can vary from instructor to instructor, so you may want to ask some basic questions about availability and training practices ahead of time. Remember, no day is ever the same in a seaplane, so keep an open mind to new experiences.

Prepare by reading any one of the text books on learning to fly seaplanes; there are several on the market. Look online for seaplane training courseware to get an idea of the content of syllabi or simply look at the Practical Test Standard for the required tasks for a seaplane rating.

Choose a school, schedule the training and enjoy a new experience in flying and remember; only a handful of people in the entire world are able to add this experience to their list. No matter what you do with the rating, the experience of obtaining it will open a new dimension in flying.

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.”

Staying Safe in Cold Fall Waters

The season is changing but winter is not yet upon us. There is still a lot of great seaplane flying weather before we pull out the skis. There are fewer boats on the lake this time of year and colder water; less boat traffic doesn’t bother us but colder water is a concern. This is the time to wear that PFD. Great—you say—how long will I last bobbing around in 45 degree water with fewer boats on the lake to save me? Not very long unfortunately. Take a look at these useful references regarding cold water survival. This is an eye opener and a true reality check on how the human body does not do well immersed in cold water. To learn more about surviving cold water emergencies visit: www.coldwaterbootcamp.com

Effects of Hypothermia (from FAA AC-91-69A)

Water Temp. in °F Exhaustion or Unconsciousness* Expected Time of Survival
Up to 32.5° Under 15 Minutes 15 to 45 Minutes
32.5° to 40° 15 to 30 Minutes 30 to 90 Minutes
40° to 50° 30 to 60 Minutes 1 to 3 Hours
50° to 60° 1 to 2 Hours 1 to 6 Hours
60° to 70° 2 to 7 Hours 2 to 40 Hours
70° to 80° 2 to 12 Hours 3 Hours to Indefinitely
Over 80° Deferred indefinitely Indefinitely
*Times given are for a young adult in good condition and health with no alcohol or drugs in system.

Remember: 1-10-1

1-10-1 is a simple way to remember the first three phases of cold water immersion and the approximate time each phase takes. 1 – Cold Shock. An initial deep and sudden Gasp followed by hyperventilation that can be as much as 600-1000% greater than normal breathing. You must keep your airway clear or run the risk of drowning. Cold Shock will pass in about 1 minute. During that time concentrate on avoiding panic and getting control of your breathing. Wearing a lifejacket during this phase is critically important to keep you afloat and breathing. 10 – Cold Incapacitation. Over approximately the next 10 minutes you will lose the effective use of your fingers, arms and legs for any meaningful movement. Concentrate on self rescue initially, and if that isn’t possible, prepare to have a way to keep your airway clear to wait for rescue. Swim failure will occur within these critical minutes and if you are in the water without a lifejacket, drowning will likely occur. 1 – Hypothermia. Even in ice water it could take approximately 1 hour before becoming unconscious due to Hypothermia. If you understand the aspects of hypothermia, techniques of how to delay it, self rescue and calling for help, your chances of survival and rescue will be dramatically increased. Source: www.coldwaterbootcamp.com

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.”