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February 19, 2010

The Little Splash-In That Did

The first annual Guntersville Lake Fall splash-in was held on October 23rd & 24th.  Guntersville, AL is located in Northern Alabama about 30 miles East of Huntsville, AL.      A few seaplanes came in on Thursday. The weather was wet and rainy on Friday, the 23rd. The weather cleared by Friday evening and another plane made it in. Amphibians landed at the Guntersville airport (8A1) and straight floats parked on the beach at Covenant Cove.  Covenant Cove is a marina with restaurant, hotel and a nice sandy beach.  Special lake side rooms were offered at a discounted rate.  A cocktail reception was held on Friday evening in the clubroom donated by Covenant Cove.  Dinner followed at the restaurant, Bistro La Luna, for those that were still hungry after all the hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday brought light rain & fog in the early morning but cleared in time for the activities, and a couple of more planes made it in.  Poor weather to the South into Florida prevented other expected aircraft.  Kenny Cobb & Ray Hinely conducted the pilot briefing at 10:30 am and the events started at 11:30 am.

Kenny Cobb, the event coordinator, explained that one of the objectives of the Splash-in was to expose float/Amphibian operations to the local communities.  Therefore, an approximate 15-20 minute excursion was flown through Guntersville, Albertville, Boaz and back to the Guntersville bridge area.  Fastest aircraft took the lead and the string of seaplanes flew several minutes apart.  The visibility was great and safe separation was no problem. The bomb dropping contest was next.  Each aircraft was equipped with two bombs and flew the bomb pattern twice.  Score was kept by the marine police in their boats and their decision was final. The next objective was a photo pass at the Guntersville State Park Lodge which is on a bluff of 500 feet overlooking the water.  The object was to get a picture of each aircraft with the fall colors and the water in the background.

A touch & go landing directly below the lodge in full view of the lodge spectators was next as there were many folks watching with all 320 lodge rooms booked.  A full stop landing followed and the amphibs used the 55 foot wide ramp and parked on the several acre parking lot.  The parking lot was closed to all boats & cars by the park police. The float planes parked on the adjacent sandy beach.  Park police provided transportation up to the lodge, and all participants enjoyed the great lunch buffet.

The wind kicked up during lunch and each pilot was forced to put rough water practice to good use. The afternoon was spent flying the area to enjoy the fall colors, sharpening up their bomb dropping skills or explaining a take off or landing in the rough water.

Saturday night brought everyone back to the clubroom for a social hour followed by the guest speaker, Linda Morgan.  Linda is the wife of the late Bob Morgan, pilot of the famous Memphis Belle.  Linda is a seaplane pilot and holds two world aviation speed records.  One of those records is a flight from Asheville NC to Kitty Hawk, NC, in a Lake Renegade.  The average speed in that flight was 197.79 mph.  Linda spoke of her flying history, EAA Sun N Fun event coordinator and Bob Morgan’s flying career.  We all knew that Bob’s was the first B-17 to complete 25 missions in Europe and then traveled through the US on a bond tour.  What we did not know is that he went back and flew another 25 missions over Japan. Linda married Bob in front of his beloved Bomber in Memphis, TN in 1992.  Gen. Paul Tibbetts, pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay, walked her down the aisle.   Linda now spends her time volunteering in animal rescue around Smith Lake and Cullman, AL.  She spoke of her activities and the need to spay & neuter our pets.  A large framed signed print of the Memphis Belle was raffled off and the proceeds went to her rescue organization.  The lucky winner was Mike Misinco.  He was the photographer for the events.  That was a very fitting recompense in that he worked unpaid. Bill Shaver showed a terrific video he had filmed & edited of the day’s activities.

Dinner followed the program and then all returned to the club room for the splash-in awards. There was a tie in the bomb dropping contest.  Kenny Cobb and Brian Gruber each missed the target by four feet.  Brian won the coin toss and first place.  Kenny was tossed into second place and third place was won by Steve Kramer.  Awards were also given out to the pilot that missed the target the farthest, pilot that cheated the most, safest pilot and not so safe pilot, etc.

All pilots received a goody bag, an 8 X 10 color photo of their aircraft from the fly-by, a copy of Bill Shaver’s video and a medallion from the City of Guntersville.  The City of Guntersville is very enthused about the importance of seaplanes in the area considering the thousands of acres of water in the area. The local newspaper ran a story about the splash-in with picture and time schedule for those who wanted to watch.  The goal of the airport manager and city is to build a seaplane base at the Northern end of the airport.   This is expected by the next splash-in. See Splash-In info and photos at the web site:

This was our first attempt at a splash-in.  Small splash-ins have the advantage of getting to know all who attend.  It could not come off without the support of the City of Guntersville, the airport manager, Covenant Cove and the volunteers.  A special note of appreciation goes out to those companies that lent their support.  Thank you all:

JACK BROWN’S SPB                              TRADE A PLANE
LAKE & AIR                                              LOWE’S

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