Info to make purchase.

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Info to make purchase.

Postby scubachris » Thu Jun 07, 2012 2:00 am

Hey Fellas,

A little background before the questions. I have always wanted a Grumman flying boat. I blame TV and specifically Tales of the Golden Monkey. Well now, I am guessing, I can finally afford to purchase one. If I seem naive with the question, it is mainly because I am ignorant on the facts.

1) What material should I use to make an informative decision?

2) What specifically should I look for in a plane? Electronics? Body? Engine? What matters and what is easily fixed?

3) True cost of ownership?

4) Are their places to dock anymore or is it all ground landings?

5) How do governments handle landing in a lake, or beach. For instance, can I land on a beach in Belize without having the air force and coast guard frowning?

6) Anything else would be awesome.

Chris from Louisiana
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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby MrWidgeon » Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:53 am

Chris, that's a big question with a ton of answers.
I'll try to answer as many as I can.
Buying any airplane is to most people an expensive proposition.
Being from Louisiana (like me) I'm sure you've heard the old saw "A boat is a hole in the water you fill with money", well add to it this one "An airplane is a hole in the sky you throw money through".
Put them both together and you have a seaplane (any type).
Aircraft maint. is expensive which is why quite a few Grumman owners are also licensed aircraft mechanics, they can do their own maint. or most of it themselves.
Any aircraft owner is allowed under the FAA regulations to do certain simple maint. items, but for most things you take it to a shop.
Any qualified mechanic or shop can legally work on a seaplane, but most owners will take their airplanes to shops that specialize in the type they own.
As to what equipment you'd want, that depends on your experience and how you plan to use the airplane.
Certain things like engines are getting harder to find parts for and in the case of Lycoming some of the engines used on the Widgeon are no longer being factory supported.
New airframe parts are very hard to find and most replacement have to hand made.
I don't know your skill level, what ratings (if any) you have.
If you want to fly any Grumman you're going to need an Multi-engine Land and Sea rating at the very minimum.
If you're just learning to fly you don't want to get into an airplane that takes a bit of experience to properly handle like a Widgeon.
If you have Bill Gates kind of money you can buy anything available, but if you don't have the time in your logbook, you're going to get hurt ( or worse).
Cost, again another old saw "If you have to ask, you can't afford it".
A Widgeon is going to run you anywhere from around $200,000.00 - $350.000.00+ and some can go higher, much less than $200K, start looking for problems with the airplane.
You won't get into a Goose for less than $500.000.00 minimum and that will buy you a rebuild project that might still fly, if you want a nice airplane get ready to go at least $750.000.00 to $1 Million, a new build Antilles Goose is going to set you back considerably more.
Mallards usually start at around $1.25 Million and go up (way up) from there.
There were still a lot of seaplane ramps and facilities in So. Louisiana last I heard and a couple of them give seaplane ratings (Southern Seaplane in Belle Chasse, LA for one).
For other info regarding landing sites across the area and the rest of the US and for information regarding seaplane training/operations/ownership and everything else related to water flying join the Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA).
They are the leading advocacy group for all forms of water flying and have a ton of information to help you get anywhere you want to go.
Almost all seaplane owners belong to it.

I wasn't trying to be a wet blanket, just trying to answer some of your questions as best I could.
If you're serious about it, then by all means go after it.

In water flying attitude is everything
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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby scubachris » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:52 am


I need all the advice I can get. Much appreciate the response. I do not live extravagant for the simple purpose is that I like to travel. My plan was to buy a Widgeon, and fix it up to use as a mobile camp. Maybe set up a toilet, sleep area, etc. Fly to the Keys, Caribbean, etc. I could afford the plane, but who knows about maintenance. I am handy with a wrench, and have no trouble going to school for it. My work schedule is 14 days on and 14 days off so plenty of time to do maintenance etc. As far as experience goes, I have none. Nada. Zip. Zero. I will start my training in January. Again thanks for the advice, and if you think of anything else let me know.

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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby MrWidgeon » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:07 am

IF, and I say BIG IF, I was looking to buy a Widgeon I think I'd look for a Franklin or McDermott conversion (ME !!! own one ???? I can't afford to put oil in one).
While I really like the performance from the Lycoming powered airplanes, I think in the long run the Continental engines are better (for now).
The Franklin conversion would be easier to find (Dean Franklin did more conversions than McDermott did) and maybe a little cheaper.
(The Lycoming powered airplanes have always been the Creme de la Creme of Widgeons.)
Plus only Dean Franklin offered the 300hp version, McDermott only offered 260hp (& a few 240hp conversions early on).
The big plus with those 2 is they both use Continental engines rather than Lycomings.
Continental still makes 300hp engines used in that conversion and parts for both are cheaper to buy than those for a Lycoming.
Forget the retractable floats, extra weight and extra maint. for maybe a 5 knot speed increase (but they DO look cool).
I would however install outboard wing fuel tanks, they can add as much as 25 gal. per side giving you a total of 158 gallons & over 1000 mile range.

If you plan to use it as an aerial camper/motor home remember one thing - KEEP IT LIGHT !
Adding all the "Comforts of Home" adds weight that cuts into your range, useful load, engine out performance and take off/landing distances.
Look at it this way too, I assume you like to scuba, do you want to crawl into the airplane dripping salt water all over a carpeted oak & leather interior ?
The Widgeon originally had a multi part linoleum on wood floor, sounds good for dripping wet suits especially if you used quick release floor fasteners to make washing out the inside of the hull easier.
Again IF I was doing this I'd find a set of Red Dodges' folding cabin seats that fold up out of the way when not in use.
With the seats out of the way you have roughly 4 X 8 feet of floor available.
For sleeping fold up the cabin seats, lay down an air mattress and sleeping bag and close the curtains (that I'd also install) & turn out the lights.
For a toilet I'd use a light weight chemical toilet installed in the aft (radio) compartment.
You'd have to empty it at an authorized location (most airports have facilities for that).
Salt water operations tremendously increase your maint. requirements, needs and expense.
EVERY time you go in the water you need to wash the airplane down afterwards, if you've been in salt water an extra long soap & water bath is a must to wash/flush as much salt residue off and out as possible.
Another thing to remember is that the Widgeon isn't really an open water airplane, it has swell/wave height limitations.
It was designed for inland waters and sheltered bays, if you're landing in open water head for the lee side of the island & land close.
Another thing I'd install is an manual/automated bilge pump system, just for a little peace of mind when I went to sleep.
One way to keep it and your cell phone charges is to have a solar cell panel or two on top of the airplane.
I know of a Goose owner that had two of them on top of his airplane and they were enough to run his bilge pumps, heater and computer when needed (not all at once of course).
Most of the jobs an owner can do are pretty much limited to oil changes and repacking wheel bearings etc. (you can check the FAA regs for more details).
If you're willing to put in the time I'd say go for the A&P (Airframe & Powerplant) schooling, if nothing else you can do your own work and have a sideline source of income in the future.
A good friend of mine (& Widgeon owner) is a retired airline Captain and supplements his pension overhauling engines and doing aircraft sheet metal repairs.

To get to a level of competency to safely fly a Widgeon is going to take a few years.
First you need a single engine land license, then you can go for a water rating, from there it's build flight time/experience and when you're ready go for that Multi-Engine Land & Sea ticket.
Somewhere in there you're going to need to learn how to fly a taildragger.
Like most things in life, all it takes is time and M-O-N-E-Y.
The Widgeon is wonderful flying airplane with delightful control forces, it's a rudder airplane, you'll use those pedals on the floor - a lot.
It has a couple bad habits, it's short coupled, runway landings in a crosswind are a challenge to the new pilot, and as in most taildraggers, it will try to swap ends on you.
That's embarrassing and can (probably will) damage the airplane.
The other bad habit and more evil one is water landings.
If done improperly it WILL kill you.
It's all about attitude, yours and (mostly) the airplanes.
Do it right and there's nothing more satisfying that a water landing where you HEAR the water kissing the hull rather than FEELING it.
Do it wrong and .... well, lets not go there.

14 & 14 eh, rig, platform or lay barge ?
(I spent the first 30+ years of my life in and around the oil industry inshore and off the LA/TX coasts and my brother still works on a lay barge)

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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby scubachris » Thu Jun 07, 2012 11:49 pm

Again, thanks for the advice. I work in deep water exploration and go to school for it. Graduate in December(finally) and already have a couple of job offers. What I have always wanted was a seaplane that I could use to go island hopping/scuba diving. It doesn't have to be a Widgeon, but I think it would be the best for what I want. I am open to suggestions on different options. As long as the plane can be flown solo. My plan is to start on my training to fly. There is a guy local who can take me through everything. He also owns a couple of DC3s so I can even practice on nose up planes. I realize it will come as a pretty penny, and maybe once I start it will be to much; however,I would rather regret spending money than not following a dream. isn't like this is going to happen overnight. As my childhood hero once said, "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby MrWidgeon » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:51 am

Hold on to your dream of flying in whatever it is you think you want.
Time, experience, finances and reality will determine what airplane it will end up being.
You're going into a wide open field that I think will be very much in demand in the future.
One that could easily provide the resources you'll need.

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
I couldn't agree more with this.
I left working the Gulf (crewboats & workover rigs) in 1980 and still miss it.
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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby dogsbody » Fri Jun 08, 2012 1:02 pm

Whatever you decide to fly in, remember: take pictures and post them here, please.

"What young man could possibly be bored
with a uniform to wear,
a fast aeroplane to fly,
and something to shoot at?"
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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby Adventureguy » Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:28 pm


Best regards in your quest for a suitable plane.


Is the Widgeon a particularly difficult plane on the water, relative to say, a Seabee? I noticed that there were some experimental hull modifications tried by the Navy (?) in some of the Widgeon photos, lengthening the bow, as if it had a tendency to nose over. If the Wideon is especially tricky, why is that so?

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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby MrWidgeon » Sat Jun 09, 2012 2:26 pm

In the hands of a properly trained pilot, no it's not particularly dangerous or difficult to handle.
The Widgeon has always had a tendency to porpoise, the condition was much worse in the early airplanes with the long step and flatter forward bow section.

Stepping back a bit -the Goose was originally flown with a shorter step, it was found that it handled better on the water with a longer step which is why, if you look closely some Gooses have one side vent at the step - a short step and some have two side vents - a long step. Currently the choice is pretty much up to the pilot, some like the short step and some like the long step and it's not real difficult to change the hull from one to the other. When the Widgeon was designed it was assumed it too would need a longer step for better water handling characteristics. This time Grumman guessed wrong, having the longer step forced the bow lower into the water increasing the chances of porpoising. When they started working on the post war G-44A model they shortened the step 9 inches added the new tunnel style suction vents just behind the original step location and changed the bow shape to a deep vee. This lessened the airplanes propensity to porpoise, but didn't stop it completely. It was also found that just shortening the step the same 9 inches and adding the tunnel vents did then same thing for the earlier G-44/J4F series airplanes. With the Widgeon it's all about pitch attitude on the water, if you get it right, no problem.
If you get it wrong, hang on and you better correct and get it right in a big hurry because you have about 3-4 bounces before it sticks the nose in and really ruins your day. If you're lucky, it won't kill you. What usually happens is the bow back to the cockpit gets violently ripped apart or it gets bent upwards at the wheel wells and traps the front seaters in their seats and they drown. In either case, not a happy ending. Part of a good Widgeon rating check ride is recognizing and stopping an in progress porpoise situation, often more than once.

The long noses and other hulls tested on the Widgeon were conducted by EDO for the US Navy for use on the P5M and other future big flying boats and had nothing to do with the Widgeon's handling problems, in fact they were started near the end of Widgeon production in the US.

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Re: Info to make purchase.

Postby Rajay » Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:54 pm

Are you saying that Grumman developed their own version of the tunnel vent for the G-44A version of the Widgeon? (Because on the Goose. the tunnel vent was originally a McKinnon STC modification.) Was there actually a tunnel vent on each and every model G-44A as it left the Grumman factory? (Now, I must go and look at some pix again!)

Is it possible that whatever tunnel vents there are on current Widgeons were actually just later McKinnon "Super Widgeon" STC mods?
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