A sunny summer day; there are no clouds in the sky. A beautifully situated lake is surrounded by fantastic mountain scenery. The water is azure blue. One can see a few sailboats and people walking along the promenade. In the midst of all this, a floatplane touches down gently on the lake. The Flying Bulls’ Cessna CE 208 Amphibian “Caravan” makes this possible.
Taking off and landing in particular requires considerable skill and high concentration levels. However, one has to navigate an abundance of red tape before one is even allowed to land on a lake. If one, for instance, wants to land on an Austrian lake, it is necessary to obtain permits in advance. Each body of water requires a separate consent form from the relevant authorities. Floatplanes are a rarity in Austria, but in summer they can be spotted quite frequently on the inland waters of other countries.
Once all the permits are obtained and the Caravan has already begun its descent to land on a lake, there are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration. In most cases, the pilot flies a so-called exploration lap to see whether there is enough space to land and to make sure that there are no obstacles on the “runway” of choice. Driftwood, for instance, can only be spotted very late in the landing process. The two floats, which also lend the Caravan its striking appearance, enable the aircraft to land on the water gracefully.
The Flying Bulls’ Caravan was built in 1996 and was equipped with a new Pratt & Whitney propeller turbine in 2008. The new turbine boasts 75hp more than the previous model. This is a significant advantage when taking off from any body of water. The aircraft, which weighs more than three tons, requires approximately half a kilometre until it lifts off. Starting with the so-called displacement phase, the floatplane gathers speed until it takes off during the glide phase.
Naturally, the Caravan can take off and land on regular runways too; to this end, the amphibious aircraft is equipped with wheels like any other ordinary plane. However, the aforementioned wheels are a little smaller, because they are mounted on the front and rear of the respective floats.
The Caravan performs quite spectacularly in flight. The cruising speed is 300km/h at an altitude of up to 7,600m. This allows the aircraft to travel from one lake to the next - and to the next summer adventure - in no time.