Pho­tog­ra­pher cap­tures sea­plane flip

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Ja­son Ruiter

TAVARES — On a windy even­ing in Tavares, An­gela Allen de­cided to try out a new lens for her Nikon cam­era to pho­to­graph the city’s sea­planes.

But when she started snap­ping pictures of an air­craft cir­cling above and then land­ing on Lake Dora in “Amer­ica’s Sea­plane City,” it be­came ev­i­dent that it had more trou­ble in the wa­ter than in the air.

“The wa­ter was su­per choppy; he was kind of wob­bling back and forth and … I guess he just lost con­trol,” said Allen, 33, of Lees­burg. The plane’s nose tipped into the lake, she said, and the rest of the plane tum­bled for­ward dur­ing its de­scent Fri­day.

“By the end, the only thing you could see was land­ing gear, ba­si­cally,” she said of the over­turned boat about 100 yards from Wooton Park’s shore­line.

The pilot of the sea­plane, which be­longed to Jones Brothers Air and Sea­plane Ad­ven­tures in Tavares, could not be reached for com­ment, but walked — or swam — away with­out in­jury. His sea­plane is one of three that have flipped in Lake Dora in the past six months, ac­cord­ing to the Tavares Fire De­part­ment.

Steve McCaughey, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sea­plane Pilot As­so­ci­a­tion in Lake­land, said two of those in­ci­dents were “to­tally pre­ventable.”

On March 21, John Cos­sette’s plane flipped in Lake Dora as he was mak­ing a U-turn on the lake. He was not in­jured.

“They were not trav­el­ing at speed; no one was in dan­ger — they were taxi­ing,” McCaughey said. “Quite hon­estly, it was just im­proper pilot tech­nique.”

On av­er­age, there are to­tal of six deaths per year re­lated to sea­planes in the coun­try. In Florida alone, there were 67 boat­ing fa­tal­i­ties in 2016.

McCaughey added that Tavares is one of the top five busiest sea­plane ports in the coun­try.

In Septem­ber, Hur­ri­cane Irma tore through Cen­tral Florida — de­stroy­ing all of the Tavares’ sea­plane docks. The city is ink­ing a con­tract with a de­sign-build firm now, but com­ple­tion of the docks is more than a year away, with an es­ti­mated cost of $8 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion, most of which could be cov­ered by city in­sur­ance.

“We’re antsy; we want it done, but it’s a process,” Tavares eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor Bob Tweedie said Mon­day.

McCaughey said the city has been a model sea­plane base through­out the U.S.

He said flips such as the one Fri­day of­ten are the re­sult of a chain re­ac­tion set off when a float be­comes and stays sub­merged.

“It’s pretty tech­ni­cal stuff … he was prob­a­bly mak­ing a turn,” McCaughey said. “It’s kind of a slow­mo­tion type of event.” For Allen, that much was true. She snapped pho­to­graphs as the pilot was safely picked up by boaters and the sea­plane slowly tilted for­ward.

“Thank God some­body was al­ready on the lake to help this guy,” she said.

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