The restoration of an old airplane is something that not everyone can handle. Most times it sits in a garage for years until someone finally comes along to finish the project. Lots of people want a project airplane but have no idea what it entails. This book was written for those people who think they are getting something for nothing, but it is far from the truth.
There are certain ways that an aviation project must be done, by FAA regulations and if you don’t know them, and which end of a screwdriver to use, you have no business getting that involved. If you have to pay someone to do this restoration, you are going to have alot more dollars involved than the finished project is worth.
I get several calls a year from folks who want a project airplane and I try to talk them out of it for the above reasons.
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John Staber has been flying Skimmers and Lakes since 1964 and has accumulated over 4500 hours in them, much of which has been teaching others to fly them. He has worked for Lake Aircraft several times as instructor, demo pilot, and ferrying them from the factory in Sanford, Maine to various places in the US and Canada. He has been known to say, “If I can’t fly a Lake or Skimmer, then I don’t want to fly!”
John resides in Old Chatham, NY with his wife Judy, black Labrador Dali, and Jesse, the cat.
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This chronicle of John Staber’s restoration of Skimmer N6595K
is dedicated to the memory of Herbert P. Lindblad
who passed away April 20, 2010.
Herb partnered with David B. Thurston in 1946 when the Colonial Aircraft Corporation was formed, started Aerofab, Inc. in 1963 and remained active even after his retirement. He was responsible for building all of the Lake Amphibians until he retired in 1985.
The Chronicle of Skimmer N6595K
It all started when Dick Ursem was sitting at O’Hare Airport waiting for a flight to Florida to attend River Ranch. Normally, he would fly N6015V, but he was delayed and the weather went downhill, so he decided to airline-it south. While waiting there in his Lake jacket someone came up to him and asked him if he knew about the original Lakes, and told him he owned serial number 5, dismantled, and for sale. Dick said he was on his way to the Lake Flyer’s convention and would spread the word around and get back to him after returning. He made the mistake of mentioning it to me and I said that I might be interested, but could it be serial number one, since it has been in the Cleveland area for years? Dick met with the owner (not the fellow at O’Hare) and took pictures of it languishing in a dark warehouse and sent them on to me – and it was #1. I thought seriously about this for a few seconds and decided to motor out to Cleveland and have a look.
Sunday, March 21, 1999 was spent tooling across all of New York State in my venerable 1989 Mercury station wagon with 130,000 miles on it, and spending the night with Dick and Joanne. I had loaded the car with all sorts of equipment useful for moving dismantled Skimmers, just in case. Early Monday morning, March 22, we motored off in a cold drizzle to the eastern suburbs of Cleveland. Dick with his SUV and his large flat trailer behind, and his good, strong friend Paul Melville. I followed in the station wagon with tools and some money, just in case. We looked it over carefully, noted that practically all the parts were there: engine, pylon (apart), all flying surfaces, landing gear, boxes of bolts, wheel hubs, pushrods, cowling, ancient radios, and on and on. Unfortunately, there was not a smidgen of paperwork nor a data plate which had been removed many years ago. Basically, all we had was a pile of aluminum and steel which resulted in my making a ridiculous offer. It was not accepted, so we talked about other things for a while before the non-pilot owner and junk dealer made a counter-offer in the exact amount of the bank check that I had brought along. Needless to say, I whipped out the check and did the paperwork quicker than you can say, “This is a water landing and the gear is up”. I am now the owner of a 1948 Colonial Skimmer, C-1, serial number 1, N6595K. What have I done?…
To go back in history for a moment: in January, 1964 I bought Colonial C-1, serial number 12, N252B and flew her for over 500 hours before trading her in on new Lake demonstrator and dealership. I made my first water landing ever with her on March 22, 1964, 35 years , TO THE DAY, of purchasing N6595K.
95K was sitting on her own little dolly, so we rolled her up onto Dick’s trailer, tied her securely and moved her to Dick’s hangar, the “U drome” at Lorain Country Airport, me following with as many loose parts as I could get in the wagon. Back again to the gloomy warehouse for the wings and engine and any remaining parts. Everything had now made it to the bright and cozy “U drome”, nestled safely under the wings of Dick’s 15V. We proceeded to load her neatly onto the trailer for the ride back to eastern New York. We worked until about 8:30 that night and the next morning finished the job, congratulated each other, hooked up the Mercury and moved her out into the fresh Ohio sunlight.
I waved goodbye and moved off to 587 miles of Interstates. The trailer towed beautifully at almost all speeds and gas mileage was never less than 14 mpg, that being in the hilly country of western New York. The load shifted very little and the balance was perfect. I spent the night in Hammondsport, New York home of the Curtiss Museum where I took photos of number one in front of number one’s museum. Off the next morning, not too early, and a stop for gas in Afton, New York, one of those quaint little country towns, whereupon the starter on the Mercury refused to engage. The convenience store personnel, whose pumps I was blocking in a big way, called a local mechanic and we towed the whole shebang to his shop much to the amusement of the local folks.
Picture this: pickup truck towing the wagon, towing the trailer with Skimmer perched on top. Believe it or not, one hour later I was back on the road to home with a new starter. We arrived home, me and my girl, at 5 PM, in time for happy hour at the local watering hole, and much levity about the plane parked outside. A call was made to Dick, Joanne and Paul to announce the arrival home. We all agreed that it was one of those projects that went “just right”. We all had a warm feeling about the whole adventure and that 95K has finally found a home where she will be restored and cared for like she deserves. I know she is happy. I was looking into her mouth in the rear-view mirror all the way home, and she was smiling.