Memories of The Surprising Seabee

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CF-EJE Photo: Grant Stephens

Photo: © via Grant Stephens

Some Memories of the Surprising Seabee

The Seabee was not built for speed or STOL performance but it was a good honest airplane. I flew into Duncan airport one nice afternoon and after shutting down walked over to some fellows sitting against the side of a building. They announced that I had made a big mistake landing there as I would not have room to get the Seabee out again. I said they did not know what they were talking about and that the Seabee would surprise them at how soon it could get off the ground.

After a while they decided to compare its ability to a Cessna 172 and found a plank to use to mark the spot where the Cessna wheels left the ground. Then it was my turn and my brother helped with the judging. The Seabee was off the ground at least 20 feet before the plank. What they never knew was the Seabee was low on gas at the time which was in my favor. The Seabee is a fairly large heavy looking bird that fools a lot of people into believing it has poor performance.

The Republic Aviation Co. that built it were fairly experienced in what they did and the airplane did what it was designed to do very well The climb out after leaving the ground was not spectacular and the Cessna would have the upper hand there but this never came up. Climb out is not too important at Duncan when you leave the runway you are a long way up anyway (300’ ASL).

One day someone parked a Beaver on floats next to my tie down. The Beaver wing was high enough that they let it hang out over top of the Seabee wing and I got to comparing them and measuring. The chord was the same and I would swear the airfoil was exactly the same. The Beaver wing was a little longer but the Beaver was a heavier airplane so that made sense.

The internal construction of the two wings was of course very different. There are no ribs in the Seabee wing. It has two spars and an embossed heavy aluminum skin made like a culvert. If you take the wingtips off you can see all the way through like looking through a culvert. As big as the airplane is it has a very simple construction and a low parts count. It was never a high maintenance bird in spite of the dire warnings I got before I bought it. It also was not prone to “hangar rash” like some of its thin skinned contemporaries.

The very large cabin and baggage area led to some Seabees being overloaded and there were accidents on this account by pilots who should have known better. After 13 years and over 1000 hours in CF-EJE I became very aware of what it could do.

Story by
Grant Stephens

"The Patrician"
Victoria Flying Club
May 2009
Editor: Eleanor Eastick

Grant Stephens - and the famous Seabee cake!

Grant Stephens
Seabee - A piece of cake!!!

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Updated: 2010-12-20

© 2010 Steinar Saevdal