15 December 2011

Amphibious Hazards - Sea Bee Air Postscript 3

In my research for the Sea Bee Air post I came across a couple of articles in Waiheke Island's Gulf News which spoke of the challenges of being an amphibian pilot...

From the Gulf News, 4 May 1977
The dinghy had sat there for three days, full of water, its dragged anchor caught in the stones. Right in the middle of the pebble runway used by the amphibians at Surfdale. For three days the plane had to squeeze past the dinghy to reach dry sand. Through high tide and low, the wretched and apparently ownerless obstacle drove the pilot to distraction. Finally after scraping the boat with an amphibian float while trying to make the beach, the pilot parked the plane, leapt out, and much to the astonishment of passengers began to remove his shoes and socks. Shirt and trousers were swiftly jettisoned also. Then, clad only in singlet and underpants, the intrepid pilot plunged into the chilly Surfdale waters to struggle with the obstinate waterlogged dinghy. After several minutes of suspenseful battle the dinghy yielded and was dragged to one side. Then, still in dripping underwear, the victorious pilot flew his admiring passengers back to Auckland, having overcome yet another occupational hazard. 

From the Gulf News, 15 December 1977
An "occupational hazard" stranded the midday Sea Bee Air flight in the mud on Surfdale beach last Friday. The Grumman Widgeon was finally freed two and a half hours later after concerted efforts by four engineers and a group of game bystanders. The engineers were whisked over by jet boat from Mechanics Bay after Chief Pilot Norman Sanson radioed 'that he had judged the width of the stone ramp a little bit to finely. Using wooden planks and blocks commandeered from Walker & Lewis, the impromptu work gang heaved the one-tonne amphibian out in 30 minutes. "This has happened twice to me in four years," Norman reflected. "It's always a possibility, because of the lack of ramp facilities here," The airline would be a lot happier, he added, if it was allowed to use the bitumen hard-standing area 100 yards east of the present ramp. It was unfortunate that residents had not favoured the idea in the past, as the bitumen provided an ideal turning-circle. Sea Bee have never asked the Council to improve the present ramp, but general manager Murray Pope informs us that he would certainly be receptive if Council made the initial approach. "Last month we spent $110 putting more stones down… obviously the rarrip needs more,” he commented. Mr Sanson feels a good case for Council assistance can be made. He pointed out: "Air New Zealand doesn't have to build a runway in Australia!"

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