The original Colonial C-1 Skimmer prototype flew for the first time in 1948 and set the stage for a long line of Lake amphibians. On May 29 of this year, that same airplane—serial No. 1—flew demonstration flights for local media at Walter J. Koladza Airport in Great Barrington, Mass.
John Staber, flight instructor and longtime pilot of Lake amphibian aircraft, said he found the airplane in pieces in a warehouse outside of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1999, and spent 11 years restoring it before taking it out for a test flight May 22. He scheduled a demonstration flight a week later to share his piece of history with the public.
The C-1 Skimmer, a three-seat, single-engine amphibian, was a precursor to the four-seat C-2 Skimmer and subsequent Lake Aircraft models. Staber, who calls himself an unofficial historian of the Lake amphibian fleet, bought his first C-1 Skimmer, serial No. 12, in 1964 and has now owned 16 aircraft of the Lake amphibian line.
Only 23 C-1 Skimmers were produced, Staber said. When he heard about an early Skimmer in parts outside of Cleveland in 1999, he knew it was either serial No. 5 or serial No. 1. He loaded up his car with tools and drove across New York state to look at the find.
“We looked it over carefully, noted that practically all the parts were there: engine, pylon (apart), all flying surfaces, landing gear, boxes of bolts, wheel hubs, pushrods, cowling, ancient radios, and on and on,” Staber said in a press release before the demonstration flight. “Unfortunately, there was not a smidgen of paperwork and we couldn’t see the data plate which had been removed many years ago.”
He bought the parts hoping they added up to serial No. 1, but it wasn’t until he got the airplane home and catalogued the parts that he had confirmation. Over the next 11 years, he labored over the parts at his home in Old Chatham, N.Y., and for the last six months at the airport. He bought back his original C-1 Skimmer, No. 12, for parts, and brought No. 1 back to airworthy condition.