Your Plane

It’s an early blue-sky morning with not much wind, as I recall. I’m sitting in the Maule. The engine has stopped, and I’ve just collided with a 172. The right wing has ridden over the 172’s red cowl and rests at the windscreen root.

At the dock, moored by its right float, the side where the three doors are, the Maule was loaded, loosed and ready for engine start. Securely moored with its propeller properly horizontal, the red 172 was docked on its left side and faced the Maule. They were nose facing nose, about a plane length apart.

On the dock, the 172’s captain was chatting and helping me fuel up from my truck’s tidy tank. When done he offers, “You get in and I’ll push you off” 

Trusting the 172’s captain, I climb in and slide my 50-year-old butt across into the Maule’s left seat.

Then its fuel on, master on, mix rich, prime 1 2 3 times, call “CLEAR” and, key to start.

ENGINE STARTS! Left Rudder LEFT RUDDER!! The Maule moves forward FORWARD???

So, mix idle cut-off and the prop stops. 

No propellers touched anything. No damage. Just a little red on the bottom side of the wing. Lucky. If his propeller had been improperly vertical, it would have been an entirely different situation for us both.

Because the rudders are on the back of the floats, they can only drive the stern or the bow into the dock. A seaplane cannot steer away from a dock it is along side. 

The proper way to launch a sea plane from a crowded dock is to position it 90 degrees from the dock, careful not to damage the rudders on the back of the floats and ask the person to hold the tail until you start the engine, and then release as you idle away. 

Or better yet you could say “If you don’t mind Sir, I’ll have you stand safely clear, and I’ll be on my way” – I am the captain after all. Push off, climb in promptly, start and go.

By the way, the simple and fast way to stop a Lycoming O540 is with the key. 

By: Grant Lakeman