Each year during the third or fourth weekend of February the Washington Aviation Association welcomes pilots to the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, Washington, for the Northwest Aviation Trade Show and Conference. This Saturday and Sunday event features more than 75 hours of seminars and 120,000 square feet of trade show exhibits. Over the 30-year history the show has grown to attract more than 10,000 attendees each year.
The Seaplane Pilots Association has been a key partner for the event since its inception. We share a 300-square-foot booth with the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association and conduct three-to-four safety seminars and workshops at the show.
This is an important show for pilots seeking a career in aviation, as it includes a job fair and opportunities to speak with various companies seeking to hire commercial seaplane pilots, commercial airline pilots and various other pilot positions.
The Seaplane Pilots Foundation usually awards at least one Tyler Orsow/Chuck Kimes Memorial Scholarship at the event each year, which provides recipients with fully paid training and a check ride for the Single-Engine Sea rating.
In one of the more unique seaplane events of the year, the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association hosts the Annual Grounded Hogs Dinner at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, the evening before the opening of the Northwest Aviation Trade Show and Conference.
The dinner is a fundraising event and features great speakers, one of the largest silent auctions we see at any aviation event, and presentations. It also provides a unique opportunity to tour the museum after hours.
Founded in 1974, Sun ‘n Fun is the traditional official opening to the airshow season nationwide. The six-day event, which takes place at the Lakeland (Florida) Linder International Airport in late March or early April, is regarded as the second largest airshow in the United States and is a must-attend event for airplane owners and pilots eager to brush off winter’s dust. Most float and seaplane manufacturers exhibit at the event.
The Seaplane Pilots Association has a significant presence at the show with a large booth in the center isle in Hangar C. Also, we support the Sun ‘n Fun Seabirds, which manages the seaplane parking area and numerous seaplane events. SPA generally conducts at least eight seaplane safety seminars and workshops during the week and awards at least one Tyler Orsow/Chuck Kimes Memorial Seaplane Scholarship, among other activities.
SPA members receive discounted tickets to the show thanks to our partnership with Sun ‘n Fun management.
Each year since 1983 the Seaplane Pilots Association, in cooperation with the Alaska Air Safety Foundation, conducts a beginning-of-the-season safety seminar at the University of Alaska Anchorage at Merrill Field. Year after year Alaska pilots fill the auditorium to overflowing to attend the event, held the last Saturday in April.
Expanding on this idea, we have now partnered with the FAA, the Alaska Airmen’s Association, and other organizations to conduct additional seminars in Anchorage as well as in Fairbanks and other Alaska locations.
By all accounts the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering, hosted by the Alaska Airmen’s Association at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, is one our favorite aviation trade shows and gatherings of the year. While the show may not be the largest in size or duration, the people and companies that participate in this annual event are some of the most passionate and dedicated adventurers in the aviation community.
Hardcore seaplane pilots and aviators take over the Lakefront Hotel, which sits on the shoreline of the Lake Hood Seaplane Base, and from breakfast to late night (early morning) the restaurants and bar within the hotel are buzzing with people sharing spirited conversations about airplanes and flying.
The show is best known for having the best collection of bush pilot gear and aircraft accessories you will ever see at any aviation trade show. This is where you will meet real bush pilots and attend some serious pilot-technique workshops.
The show culminates on Sunday afternoon with the Alaska Airmen’s Association raffling off an airplane to a lucky ticket holder. The Seaplane Pilots Foundation customarily awards at least one Tyler Orsow/Chuck Kimes Memorial Seaplane Rating Scholarship as well.
Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake in central Minnesota hosts the Annual Minnesota Seaplane Safety Seminar. Coordinated by the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association, this three-day late-May event attracts an impressive number of seaplane pilots, many of whom fly in and tie up on Madden’s lakefront beach or land at the nearby grass strip. They come to participate in some of the most informative seaplane safety seminars offered anywhere in the lower 48 states.
The location of this event is a big part of its attraction as well. The resort sprawls over more than 1,000 acres and includes multiple golf courses, a grass landing strip, white sandy beaches for seaplane parking, multiple levels of accommodations ranging from hotel rooms to private cabins, a spa, horseback riding and numerous boating opportunities.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the largest aviation event in the world, is a true mecca for aviation enthusiasts. This week-long fly-in, splash-in and trade show, is held at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and also is the largest event of the year for the Seaplane Pilots Association. SPA maintains booths at both the main show and at the AirVenture Seaplane Base on nearby Lake Winnebago. SPA also conducts daily safety seminars and workshops at both the main show and the seaplane base in addition to attending numerous manufacturer events and other activities.
The entire aviation community pulls out all the stops to impress AirVenture attendees. If you’ve never attended, you really owe it to yourself to check off this bucket list item. Many of the SPA volunteers we see year after year have been faithfully coming to AirVenture for decades, and they set aside some of their time to work the event on behalf of SPA.
And, most important, each year at AirVenture SPA hosts it largest public event of the year—the SPA Corn Roast.
On Thursday evening of AirVenture week 700 SPA members and sponsor companies, seaplane fans, and pilots gather for an evening of food and fun under a big-top tent on private property adjacent to the seaplane parking area on the southwest side of Runway 36 to celebrate the water flying community.
Live music, brats and roasted corn, beer, auctions, more beer, contests, awards, celebrity appearances—and did we mention beer—are enjoyed by all. (The beer is for adults only, of course, and here’s an insiders’ secret: Lifetime SPA members receive admission to the event, dinner and all the beer they can drink for free for life.) Bring your checkbook for the auction as you can expect to find everything from one-of-a-kind wooden propellers to multiengine seaplane ratings auctioned off. It’s all done to raise money to help SPA protect and promote the water flying community.
Aerocet, Wipaire, Hartzell Propellers, Falcon Insurance, the Seaplane Safety Institute, Icon Aircraft and AOPA make the Corn Roast possible with their long-term commitment to sponsorship. The SPA Board of Directors, staff, and all of our members would like to thank all of these organizations for their invaluable support of SPA through their Corn Roast sponsorship
We can’t say it strongly enough: this is one of our favorite events of the year. The seaplane community is fortunate in the fact that our events are just so enjoyable, and each is wonderfully unique in its own way. The International Seaplane Fly-In in Greenville, Maine, combines dinner cruises, a small but loyal set of vendor and manufacture displays, seaplane poker runs, banquets and seaplane competitions in a way that makes it the most interactive and engaging get-together of the year.
The setting is the shoreline of the breathtakingly beautiful Moosehead Lake and the quaint host town of Greenville, deep in the wooded interior of Maine. Traveling to Greenville by land will take you on a several-hours journey off the beaten path on two-lane roads passing through countless small towns. How small? Like Greenville—except on the fly-in weekend—many of the towns do not even have a single stop light.
Hosted by the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association, this annual seaplane event at Pokagon State Park on Lake James is one the biggest and best-attended seaplane events in the Midwest.
Thanks to decades of hard work by SPA Field Director Randy Strebig and his volunteers, this event gives seaplane pilots an opportunity to gather and share their water flying experiences with the public outside of the seaplane community. Hundreds gather to watch seaplanes come and go on the lake, examine the airplanes up close, and talk to pilots. The Indiana Seaplane Splash-In is a wonderful opportunity for the seaplane community to engage in an enjoyable and successful weekend of public outreach.
Once a year, in mid-to-late September, SPA Field Director Cam Dunlap takes over the historic seaplane town of Hammondsport, New York, with a celebration of seaplanes and cars with Wings & Wheels.
Beginning with what was a rather humble gathering of seaplanes, this event attracts a rapidly growing crowd of aviation and car enthusiasts year after year. We love Wings & Wheels because many of we seaplaners are also enthusiastic automotive gearheads. Seems that if you find the smell of avgas and the sound of an idling Pratt & Whitney R-985 radial intoxicating, you are highly likely to appreciate fine performance cars, too.
Similar to Greenville, Maine, the quaint town of Hammondsport has largely escaped urban sprawl and modernization. Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss is buried in the town cemetery on the shores of Kueka Lake—Hammondsport is where Curtiss invented the float and hull step, which was the single most important development in float technology that allows us to enjoy water flying today.
On Saturday night after a day of seaplane flying, pilots can enjoy a private banquet and after-hours access to the impressive Curtiss Museum. A smaller gathering of pilots generally assembles at a private car barn, and seaplane stories are shared into the wee hours of the morning.
Each year the Seaplane Pilots Association organizes the trip of a lifetime in which a small group of members assembles to take part in an amazing week of flying that will create memories to last a lifetime.
The destinations vary each year and have included Lake Como, Italy; Seattle; and New Orleans.
Our fellow adventurers who joined us in Seattle enjoyed private VIP tours of the Boeing factory, Kenmore Turbine Otter fly-outs to romantic towns in the San Juan Islands, historic underground tours of Seattle and nightly social activities. The week culminated with the Annual SPA Member Meeting. A huge thanks to our hosts Kenmore Air for rolling out the red carpet and generously making their aircraft and facilities available for the event.
In New Orleans, Southern Seaplane hosted us and rolled out a southern-style red carpet for a week of seaplane flying, museum tours, nights on Bourbon Street, dunk-tank emergency egress training, plantation tours, a dinner cruise on the historic Natchez River Boat and even a seaplane fly-out to Avery Island to tour the Tabasco factory.
Lake Como, Italy, has been the grandest of the adventures, where we were hosted by the Aero Club Como. The club has an impressive collection of seaplanes and over the course of the week our group logged more than 80 hours flying. International friendship formed, and the food and experiences were nothing short of truly epic.
Each year we will plan another amazing trip, which are planned for early October.
Each year SPA invites members to join the staff and many of the association’s board members to get a comprehensive state of the association briefing. At the annual member meeting we review and report on activities such as safety programs and initiatives, advocacy efforts to keep waters open to seaplanes, association finances, membership activity and the election of board members.
SPA usually provides a free lunch to those who attend the annual meeting, which is held at different locations around the country on the last day of the member adventure when possible.