Steve McCaughey, the affable executive director of the Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA), was at a momentary loss for words when Progressive Aerodyne sales director Kevin Oaks handed over the keys to a new Searey Adventure light sport aircraft that will be pressed into service for 12 months of floatplane flying awareness. “I had a dream and to my great surprise, Kevin came through,” McCaughey said at a news conference at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida, April 10. “I just about fell off my chair.”
McCaughey, a seaplane pilot who began his aviation career by washing aircraft at the local FBO to pay for flight lessons, said he wanted to spread the joy and the adventure associated with seaplane aviation. “Most people think it’s expensive to take up flying, but this aircraft is comparatively inexpensive and it really kind of checks all the boxes.”
He said the entry-level aircraft’s useful load “is a little under 500 pounds,” and the retractable-gear taildragger has a normally aspirated Rotax 912 engine that sips fuel at about five gallons per hour. “It’s an 80-knot airplane and you get off the ground in 500 feet,” he noted. Oaks said the cost for a typical annual “runs about $1,200-1,500. This is a tube and fabric airplane and we keep it simple to operate.” He said one of the aircraft’s favorite attributes for him was the ability to fly with the sliding canopy in the open position to better enjoy the surrounding environment. “It’s a low and slow airplane, but you can fly [a few hundred feet] above the water of the Mississippi River all the way to Oshkosh.”
The deal calls for the grass-roots floatplane association to showcase it at organized seaplane flying events and other opportunities to help grow the pilot community. “I have to stress that this is a pretty significant commitment by Kevin and Geoffrey [Nicholson, Progressive Aerodyne’s CEO],” said a visibly moved McCaughey. “The association has never had a corporate aircraft to spread goodwill, and we’re going to get it out to the public as much as possible.”
McCaughey said the Adventure’s first mission would be to Colorado, where floatplane flying is severely restricted. Seaplane pilots in that state have limited access to two bodies of water—Kenney Reservoir and Lake Meredith—but other pristine mountain lakes and rushing rivers are closed to seaplane operations. The SPA noted on its website that the group has been “actively pursuing locations throughout the state with good success,” and the association was optimistic about opening up other bodies of water in the future.
“We are the voice for keeping the water open for the seaplane community,” said McCaughey, “and we need to have more seaplane pilots.”
After Colorado, the aircraft will make an appearance at the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana, June 15-16, and at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 23-29.