Where airplanes have floats, and everybody flies.
- By Carl Posey
- Air & Space magazine, June 2013
Adam Wright / FlightDeckImages
(Page 3 of 7)
The slips cost $105 a month, plus another $10 for commercial operations, and they are not intended for stashing derelicts one hopes to fix up someday. All the aircraft in the Lake Hood slips are airworthy.
But they are not young. Most date from the 1970s, or earlier. Here and there one encounters something extraordinary: an immaculate Cessna 195 on floats, a Grumman Widgeon. Super Cubs and antique Aeroncas line the shore, along with a host of 1960s and 1970s Cessnas. The newest airplane on the lake is probably a white RV9A two-seat homebuilt, sitting toy-like on floats as dainty as dancing pumps.
The commercial operators here lean more toward the Cessna 206 and the big classics: de Havilland Beavers and Otters, some converted to turbine power, and the turbine-powered Cessna 208 Caravan.
Pilots brag about the older airplanes’ ability to fly with whatever can be loaded into, or onto, them. The old de Havillands take off with lumber, sea kayaks, an aluminum fishing boat, snow machines, and various other bulky objects strapped to the floats, the cabins stuffed with a four-by-four vehicle or a rank of 55-gallon fuel drums—or a half-dozen passengers.
More than 60 businesses and several government offices are arrayed along the lakeshore. Some of the enterprises are dedicated to keeping old aircraft maintained and updated. Some sell used airplanes or fuel, offer instruction, or provide storage for floats.
In some respects, the Lake Hood business community evokes the towns in movie westerns, with their shopkeepers, smiths, livery stables, rugged individuals, farmers, sharecroppers, and dynasties. In those settlements, everybody owns and rides a horse, but the only ones who make their living with one are cowboys. Everybody in this community flies, but only a handful make their living doing it.
Occupying a slip in Lake Spenard’s northeast corner is Ellison Air, run by John and Diana Ellison. A tiny manicured lawn and bank of flowers front a shack finished off like a dollhouse, and a sparkling Cessna 206 floats in its moorings by a narrow pier.