July 5, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
When Steven McCaughey formally takes over as the new executive director of the Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA) on July 15, projects from coast to coast will invite him to dive right in on behalf of the organization’s nearly 9,000 members.
Maybe that’s what SPA Chairman Walter Windus meant when he described both the man and his mission in one short sentence.
“Seaplane advocacy is near the top of his list.”
On July 1, the SPA announced the appointment of McCaughey to head the Lakeland, Fla.-based organization that was founded in 1972 to advocate for seaplane pilots and enthusiasts at the local, state, and federal levels.
“Steve comes with a very diverse background in aviation and an unquenchable passion for seaplane flying,” said the SPA’s news release. “He brings a wealth of aviation knowledge and experiences to the organization, including experience in flight school and air operations management. Steve has also provided aircraft management services, and has served in the U.S. Air Force with the Special Operations Command.”
The SPA noted that McCaughey and his wife, Mary, “were married in-flight, aboard the same HU-16 Albatross in which he received his G-111 type rating.” Bush flying in the Northwest and Alaska, aerobatics, taildraggers, and float flying in Florida also appear on his resume, making him “a pilot’s pilot”—just as you would expect from someone “who has loved to get his hands on anything with wings since his early teens.”
When McCaughey is not busy applying himself to the goal of reinvigorating the SPA’s membership, he will be practicing his advocacy skills. On the East Coast, the tradition of seaplane operations from Low’s Lake in northeastern New York state is threatened with being terminated at the end of 2011, as a debate continues over land use in the Adirondacks.
Then there’s the West Coast. At Whatcom Lake, near Bellingham, Wash., where seaplanes have been in operation for more than 50 years, officials have looked less favorably on a requested seaplane dock than they have on similar docks for boats, said Windus.
“What’s the distinction? It’s being debated in (the state of) Washington as we speak,” he said.
Windus added that “seaplane issues have been somewhat numerous in the Northwest—Oregon and Washington in particular.”
McCaughey, who was selected from a field of eight finalists to succeed James McManus as executive director, introduced himself to the members recently on the SPA website, where he chatted about unity and growth of the organization.
“We all share an amazing insight into the unique and wonderful world of water flying,” he wrote. “I hope together we will create a new and exciting chapter in the history of seaplane flying and the Seaplane Pilots Association.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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