Small Wonders at the Seaplane Base

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It’s Thursday at AirVenture and the weather is great so, with feet worn out through hiking the booths and flight lines, I took the bus out to the seaplane base. Out of the way, yes, but well worth the ride.

Wandering around I spotted a very small aircraft that had drawn a few folks and just listened in for a while. If airplane people are drawn together by a common interest, seaplane folks are more so, and in no time I was sitting at John Knapp’s motorhome, cool drink in hand while he explained his plansbuilt Mini-Mong. Now, with John standing on the float you can see that it’s a small airplane. But when you calibrate to John’s 5-foot-2 height you appreciate this little wonder a bit more.

John built it from plans in a mere 700 hours with its Rotax engine. “I suspended it from bungee cords to figure out the float position, and when it looked about right I called it good,” he joked. A bit more went into it, but he’s built several other seaplanes, so it wasn’t quite the the shoot-from-the-hip it would seem.

Size, though unusual, is trumped by the addition of a centrifugal clutch on the prop. Normally, a seaplane starts moving when the engine is started. With John’s airplane the engine runs, but nothing else moves. Hit the gas for taxi speed and the prop comes into play. He jokes that he’s tempted to ask the unwary to “prop it” sometime just for the laugh.

If you visit the Seaplane base, be aware you may be approached by a little guy with a big smile.

 

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