Lake Como: Soaring Seaplanes Since 1913

Aero Club Como, 1913

The Wright Brothers flew the first powered controlled flight in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North, Carolina.  A scant 10 years later, the first seaplane base in the world was founded at Lake, Como. Aero Club Como is still flying high, training pilots in its seaplane school, which is the largest in Europe and the oldest in the world. In addition, Aero Club Como is operating the only seaplane base in Italy.  In fact, the only other seaplane bases in all of Europe are in Scandinavia.

Seaplanes: Lords of Lake Como:

Lake Como is a Y-shaped lake encompassing about 56 square miles and plunging to a depth of about 1500 feet. Sailing vessels from the sublime to the ordinary skim across the lake’s surface: yachts, ferries, sailboats, windsurfers, kitesurfers, and paddleboats. Villas and palaces hang precariously off the sides of the mountains, which welcome both bold- blue and whispy-smoky skies. Overhead, seaplanes lord over all, surveying their kingdom, knowing all is good on Lake Como.

Day #6: Last Call for Fun at AirVenture 2016

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SITES AT THE SEAPLANE BASE

Come see what I saw on our last day at AirVenture 2016.  We checked out of our delightful B & B and headed a few miles down the road to the Seaplane Base.  People from all over the world visited the site and marked their hometowns on the map below.

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We found the Seaplane Base to be an idyllic location, one that you could fly to and then camp at if you wanted. Many people took that option, but what was the big draw this year?  What attracted so many, from so far away?

THE MARTIN MARS

Answer:  The Monster of All Flying Boats–The Mighty Martin Mars!  This behemoth, owned by the Coulson Group, is the world’s largest flying boat to be flown operationally. This aircraft, one of five built at the end of the World War II, first served as a troop transport by the U.S. Navy for several years. One of the aircraft was destroyed in a fire, and the other four were then sold in 1959 to a British Columbia forest consortium and converted to fire tankers. Two out of the original four planes had long stints fighting forest fires. The other two had accidents that permanently grounded them.

PRIVATE COLLECTOR KERMIN WEEKS

Kermit Weeks, the owner of Fantasy of Flight Museum in Florida and the largest private collector of aircraft in the world, was part of the crew flying the Martin Mars from Vancouver Island to Oshkosh’s Lake Winnebago.  Weeks felt that the aircraft is so special that he told the local news station that he “. . . believe(d) I’m being part of history” especially since he had his “doubts on whether the airplane will continue flying.” Weeks put his money where his heart is because the local news also reported that he bought his seat on the flight deck by paying the $40,000 fuel bill for the eight-hour flight. Like Weeks, Martin Mars fans came great distances to view this massive machine.

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PROBLEM ON THE LAKE

Some flew close to the aircraft to get an up close and personal view, while others on the shore were artistically inspired. We all looked forward to the promised tours of this historical flying boat.  One problem: Where were the boats taking fans out to the Martin Mars?

Oops! The flight crew had an engine issue when taking off on the lake. They made a cautionary landing in shallow water, which poked a hole in the hull.  No tours today!

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HANDSOME IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

We then found other things to do.  My favorite was the meet and greet session with the  pilots from the Canadian Geese Flying Team. These handsome guys were straight out of central casting:  drop-your-jaw gorgeous.  (Or maybe I was just tired of looking at airplanes all week!)  My husband obviously didn’t share my sentiments about needing a change of scenery because here he is admiring a Searey.

HUMOR AT THE BASE

We noticed we had other options for entertainment too as we strolled by “Naka Beach.” Everyone else strolled on by too, so nothing scandalous to report here.

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I will report that seaplane pilots obviously have a sense of humor.

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WHICH WAY TO GO?

Our time is finished at AirVenture 2016, and in case we hadn’t gotten our aviation fix, the sign post below points to other aviation sites to explore.  We are sated, so we don’t take a detour.  Instead, we are off to Milwaukee to catch our flight home.  We had a fun time playing with airplanes, but that fact didn’t hold true for the trip home. We got stuck in Atlanta overnight, but I am not going to share those details. Why end a happy story with a horrific conclusion?

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Day 4: Sea Planes and See Planes at AirVenture 2016

 

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I married for love and knew I married a man who loved airplanes in addition to me. Thursday night found us at the Seaplane Pilots Association’s annual Corn Roast and BBQ.This is gourmet dining the no-frills Wisconsin way:   grilled brats, corn cooked in a vertical roaster, baked beans, cake, and beer, all served on unadorned folding tables.

Gotta have the beer with the brats in the state that brought Schlitz Beer to the world.  The company was founded in 1849 and once was the largest producer of beer in the U.S.  I know this because my Dad worked for Schlitz.  Other kids had milk in their baby bottles; I had Schlitz, so to speak.  Dad moved on from Schlitz to work for Budweiser and Anheuser Busch.  I moved on  from Schlitz, to drinking Budweiser, then Michelob, and now AmberBock (below) and local craft beers, like Zero Gravity,  when I am not drinking my favorite, Citizen Cider’s Unified Press.  I guess I am a personified timeline of our country’s evolution in drinking habits. How goes Connie, thus goes the rest of the country.

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Beyond brats and beer, the gathering featured a band ‘o pirates relatin’ their adventures, fightin’ games, givin’ talks, ‘n auctionin’ off a ruckas booty. Arrr! We, however, added another adventure.

Gear is up and we are out of here! Off to see the airplanes that were flown in and parked on the flight line.

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Boys and their toys–grown up style!

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Parking for Cessna 195s on “Interstate 195” and parking for the Ercoupes at “Ercoupe Alley.”

“Fat Tire” doesn’t just refer to a bike or to a beer as the tire on “Raisin’ H’Eleanor shows.

The Mooney Mite is the smallest aircraft flown to the show, a single place from California.

All the creature comforts a camper could want:  a charging station, potties, showers, and water.  “Comfort” is obviously relative.

Sunset and airplanes, a tranquil end to an exciting day.

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