Midwest Regional Float Fly

Written by Jay Smith. As featured on page 20 in the May 2012 issue. Read the excerpts and online exclusive content.

I am enticed by aircraft flown from the water. There’s a certain beauty and grace to the way they look. I especially enjoy the amphibious aircraft of the 1930s, such as the Grumman Goose or the Sikorsky S-39.

This aerial photo, taken from the Maule, provides a unique perspective of Island Lake State Park and the wide variety of models in attendance.

Although I haven’t had the opportunity to fly in any of those classic watercraft, I have enjoyed rides in a Cessna and a Maule, the latter of which happened at the 2011 Midwest Regional Float Fly. The ride was thanks to Mike Weltyk and it allowed me to get a great aerial photo.

It took Jim Held six months to build this Martin PBM Mariner from Keith Sparks plans. The 101-inch wingspan model has a flying weight of 20 pounds and presented well on the water and in the air.

The 2011 event, held on September 10 and 11, was the 21st annual event hosted by the Skymasters Radio Control Club at the Island Lake State Park in Brighton, Michigan. It provides all the water a float-fly pilot could want with its 40-acre lake and a 1,000-foot sandy beach from which to fly.

The Great Planes 1/4-scale RV-4 made a wonderful float airplane and Jerry Hough put in several flights on the model during the Midwest Regional Float Fly.

To say I was excited to attend the float fly would be an understatement. The event is well attended each year and attracts some beautiful aircraft.

The weather on Saturday threatened to make the first day much wetter than any float flier would want, but by the time I arrived at the park and paid my $8 fee for a daily recreational passport, the sky had cleared and flying had begun.

Pete Foss and the other club members did a nice job getting the area ready. Pilot stations on the beach were clearly marked and the pit area was located behind them. Beyond that, a roped-off area separated the public from the pits for safety. The public area was also where the food and hobby vendors were located and the park provided access to bathrooms and a large building where aircraft were stored overnight.

At the pilots’ meeting, I saw that the Skymasters take safety seriously, ensuring all flying was done from a pilot station with the assistance of a spotter. In the water, buoys clearly marked the taxiway close to shore and aircraft were required to keep all flight operations beyond them.

Mark Smith, from RC Seaplane Supply, handled the bulk of airplane recovery using his own boat and making countless trips during the two days.

Mark Smith, from RC Seaplane Supply, handled the bulk of airplane recovery using his own boat and making countless trips during the two days. He was kind enough to take me with him on a couple of runs to allow me to take photos from a different perspective. It reminded of my days as an RC boat racer and working pickup detail. Mark did a great job. Also assisting with recovering aircraft were Greg Cardillo and his daughter, Alyssa, in their kayaks.

It is easy to appreciate the beautiful venue from this vantage point on the water. From its lush grass and plentiful shade trees, to the sandy beach with easy water access, the Island Lake State Park is accommodating.

Most of the takeoffs and landings at the Midwest Regional Float Fly were picture-perfect; however, when nearly 100 aircraft are flown in two days, inevitably a few will have a disagreement with the water.

The event typically draws a couple of full-scale aircraft that fly in. This year, Mike Weltyk gave us a pass and wing wag to let us know he would be putting down.

Mike is a corporate pilot who enjoys flying RC with his son. He flew in for lunch and a chance to browse the vendor row. While Mike was there, modeler Steve Fredericks took the opportunity to get a picture of his 98-inch RC Maule alongside its full-scale counterpart.

Steve Fredericks steadies his 98-inch RC Maule, built from an Ikon Northwest kit, alongside its full-scale counterpart.

The Skymasters offer a dinner on the beach Saturday shortly before dark. The gathering provided a nice opportunity to get to know some of the pilots even better, while enjoying pulled pork and chicken.

Noel Cross shared some interesting stories of what it was like growing up in England during World War II, his experiences with modeling, and his love for the Spitfire. When he spoke of the iconic aircraft, it was obvious that the years hadn’t dimmed his memory of the warbird valiantly defending his homeland.

Robert Ball is another gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting. A fellow veteran and an excellent model builder, his Gee Bee with matching floats garnered much attention at the event.

Laddie Mikulasko poses with his Dornier Do X. The 80-inch wingspan model has 1,240 square inches of wing area and is powered by 12 electric motors.

Model Aviation contributor Laddie Mikulasko is a regular at the Midwest Regional Float Fly. Laddie has been designing aircraft for us for several years and normally I only get to see him at the Toledo Expo, so it was a great opportunity to see some of his creations on the water and in the air!

Sunday’s weather was nice and a large number of pilots returned with their models for another fun day on the water. I expect the raffle planned for later that afternoon had a lot to do with attendance.

Bob Grossman built this terrific Sikorsky S-39 that was flown by John Krupp. RCM plans were enlarged 18% to produce a 90-inch wingspan. The full-scale S-39 resides at Fantasy of Flight in Florida.

The long drive home and another commitment kept me from staying the entire day, but during the commute home to Muncie, Indiana, I reflected on what a great event the Midwest Regional Float Fly turned out to be!

Lois Sampson learned to fly with a Sig LT-40 and then moved to the Hangar 9 Cub to gain experience flying from water.

Bob Mayhew scratch-built this beautiful de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. The 14-pound model has an 83-inch wingspan and is powered by an O.S. 91 four-stroke engine.

The club members have learned much about sponsoring an excellent event in the last 21 years and the pilots appreciate this annual gathering. Some have even attended every one!

If you enjoy the combination of water and aircraft with a beautiful Michigan backdrop, the Midwest Regional Float Fly is the place to be in September.

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Great photos! Beautiful planes in a beautiful setting.

Thanks for the coverage! Love the 30's era seaplanes.

That Martin PBM Mariner is just beautiful, great work!!

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