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canaero - Canadian aviation history

One of a kind (almost) page 3

Story and photos by Rich hulina

The Caravan is an easy airplane to fly. It handles like a big 206 with a lot more power. Under the hood is a PT6A-114A rated at 675 hp. Standard 208 maximum gross is 8,000 pounds and maximum landing weight is 7,800 pounds. Wipaire modifications allow a maximum takeoff weight of 8,360. Unfortunately, the additional weight has to be all fuel to ensure that landing weight limits are not exceeded. Therefore, the aircraft is better for long trips. Our standard runs are just under 100 miles. Empty weight is 5,020 pounds. Once you understand the engine’s operation, the Caravan is truly a delightful airplane. Bringing the power lever up to 1,875 ft-lbs of torque at 1,900 rpm, it takes only a matter of seconds till the nose has risen and you start pushing forward onto the step. Ten to 15 seconds later, the aircraft will fly out of the water between 50 and 60 kts. Once in the air, the Caravan is in a class of its own. Loaded, you can climb at 700 to 800 fpm, the rate of climb being controlled as forward visibility is obscured by the nose. Only a few minutes are needed to reach a turbulent-free cruising altitude, at which time the nose is lowered and autopilot turned on, and the airspeed climbs. The Slate Falls 208 cruises around 145 KIAS. Ground speeds between 160 and 180 kts are achieved on one if not both legs of a trip. At these speeds travel time is fast, and soon your descent begins. At this time the airplane flies easily at its Vne of 175 kts. If you’re not watching the airspeed, believe me, it’s soon brought to your attention by a very high-pitched horn in your headset. Landing is straightforward: 20 to 30 degrees flap, 75 to 85 kts and just trim to the water with your thumb. Electric trim is located on the left-hand side of the control column.

In the water, the 208 is by far the easiest airplane to manoeuvre. After flying an Otter for the past few years, you know how the wind is going to affect the airplane. Even the slightest of breezes can result in dented floats. By contrast, the Caravan doesn’t care what the wind is doing. In strong winds, sailing is not required unless it is dangerous to turn without flipping over. Unlike the Otter, the Cessna will turn around with ease. (It helps that Wipaire put some good-sized water rudders on their floats.) Docking on the pilot’s side is always preferred. This can usually be done because you can stop and back up, or just simply pin it to the dock. Shut down, jump out, tie ’er up, then return to the cabin to do final system shutdowns. Blade latches are installed to stop the propeller from feathering; that way, there’s no final surge forward after the condition lever is brought to cut-off. Blade latches simply engage by shutting down the engine in beta. Occasionally, a departing passenger will accidentally bump the power lever up just enough that the prop will feather. Then you hang on; if not, you’re left standing on the dock as the million-dollar machine goes running off into the bulrushes–that would ruin anybody’s day!

After unloading, passengers stand around with a shocked look on their faces, wondering how they got to their fishing spot so fast. Most can’t believe how quiet the airplane is inside; speaking to a person in the back seat from the front doesn’t require any shouting. Slate Falls not only hauls tourists with the Caravan, but does a fair bit of charter work as well. Year-round, 300-mile legs are not uncommon, and professional organizations like the speed and comfortable ride. With the airplane’s 6.5-hour range, numerous sites can be visited during one flight. In winter, the 208 is converted to wheels and flown off the ice strip.

During the float season, maintenance is done on the water. We removed the 208 from the water the first year with our smaller hydraulic cart but found it inadequate for an aircraft of this size. A local entrepreneur designed a new one, which had to sit low enough to enable entrance of the aircraft into the hangar for changeover. No beaching gear is available for these floats, as can be found on the larger Edo products. Changeovers are simple, since the back float struts are attached to a solid beam and held in place by four bolts, similar to the wheeled landing gear. The front struts are attached the same way as on any other aircraft.

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