Highlander Float Planes

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Highlander Float Planes

Postby av8rps » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:34 am

It's been kind of quiet around this forum lately, so for any of you that need a little inspiration to get your Highlander on floats, I thought here in the middle of winter in Wisconsin it would be good to share some Highlander float flying pictures with you from my archives.

Some of these pictures were taken at Brainerd Minnesota at the annual spring seaplane fly in on Gull Lake at Maddens Resort way back in 2006. Maddens is a beautiful resort in northern Minnesota that hosts the 1st Seaplane Fly In of the year in our region. It is always a great time.

Both of the Highlanders in the Brainerd pictures were from Cornell Aero Works in Wisconsin, and the yellow Kitfox amphib is mine. It was a great weekend of fun flying our seaplanes around the area, and hanging out with our Minnesota area seaplane friends. The trip was great, and is a good example of the fun you can have with a Highlander on floats... 8)

Ironically, today I own the Maroon Highlander you see in the pictures along with my yellow Kitfox amphib (what's a guy to do when he can't decide; Kitfox or Highlander???) Oh, and for the record, none of us liked the floats that were on the Highlanders at the time. But they were functional, later making a trip from Wisconsin to Sun-N-Fun in Florida in 2007.

The Highlander really makes for a nice seaplane, having lots of power along with great handling characteristics on floats. And having that big cabin and extra large baggage area is a rarity in such a small, low horsepower seaplane. It can haul all your camping gear and still have room to spare.

So are you how wondering how slow we flew on those super draggy floats? Well not as bad as one might think. We could pretty effortlessly cruise at 90-95 mph range on trips, burning on average only 4.4 gph with the Rotax 912 engine. Later when better floats were used, 100 mph on floats became an attainable cruise speed. For anyone that doesn't know, that is a really good speed for a 100 hp amphibious float equipped airplane.

The other pictures are of another seaplane gathering in Northern Wisconsin, another Highlander a friend built and set up on straight Bauman floats (a rocketship off the water), and the two Highlanders on amphibs flying back from Sun-N-Fun in Florida back to Wisconsin with a friend flying his Husky amphib.

Sorry I can't seem to get these photos in order like I planned. But hopefully these will inspire and make the winter seem a little shorter for all of us ...
IMG_2459[1].jpg
Another Highlander on Straight floats
travels - Georgia.JPG
Two Highlanders and a Husky amphib to Sun N Fun
Highlander in Northern Wisconsin (1).JPG
Another Seaplane gathering in Northern Wisconsin
227122-R1-05-19.JPG
Cruising between Wisconsin and Minnesota
227121-R1-19-5.JPG
Highlanders and Kitfox amphibs on the beach in Brainerd
Highlander or Kitfox.JPG
Highlander or Kitfox? Hmmmm?
227123-R1-10-14.JPG
Maddens Gull Lake Resort
Highlander in Northern Wisconsin (1).JPG
Another Seaplane gathering in Northern Wisconsin
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby marl59 » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:38 pm

Hey scubarider, what is your Highlander's max gross with floats? Useful load? Ive been considering some for my Highlander. Great pics!
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby scubarider2 » Thu Jan 07, 2016 1:26 pm

Sorry, I am not the one with floats on my plane. We can't land on most of the water in Georgia. Sad.....
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby av8rps » Thu Jan 07, 2016 7:36 pm

On better amphib floats (than is shown in the pictures on those two Highlanders) you can expect a 175 to 210 lb weight gain, which is why it is so important to keep weight down on your airplane if you want to fly it as an amphibian. From memory, the Maroon and white Highlander weighs 680 lbs on wheel gear, which weighs approx 65 lbs including tailwheel and 8.50 tires, and a nice set of amphib floats will be in tbe 235 to 250 lb range with rigging and hydraulic pump. So 680 lb EW - 65 lbs for wheel gear removed = 615 lbs for weight of aircraft minus wheel gear. Now add a set of 240 lb amphib floats to the 615 and you have a new empty weight on floats of 855 lbs.

So if you operate at the max flying weight for LSA of 1430 lbs, you will have a 575 lb useful load on floats. Thats actually a GREAT useful load for a small 100 hp amphib, especially one that only needs approx 100 lbs of fuel to fly for 4 hours, leaving you 475 lbs for people and gear. Compare that 180 hp Husky A1 amphib in the one picture; it only has a 387 lb useful load on floats, and it burns about 10 gallons an hour of fuel, or 240 lbs for a 4 hour trip. That leaves you with only 147 lbs for people and gear. So obviously it is not a practical amphib if you want to stay legal, and at least reasonably safe. A typical Super Cub is much the same if you check them out on amphibs. Oh, and the Husky and the Super Cub cannot operate as an LSA. Yet they are both known as Premium amphibs...

Ok, now exercise the option on your Highlander as an Experimental. Troy told me once he felt comfortable with the Highlander at 1500 lbs gross in its stock configurafion, and 1550 with a minor mod to the tail. Thinking about that I've closely compared my Highlander to a Kitfox Super Sport kit I bought a while ago, and believe based on that inspection it is as strong as the new 1550 Kitfox. And fwiw, I know of a couple Continental IO-240 powered late model Kitfoxes on amphibs with empty weights on floats of around 1250 lbs that have besn flying for years at 1750 + lbs. One for sure with a blessing from Skystar. Of course we can determine our own max gross for our amateur builts, so for me if I didn't care about being LSA, I'd go for either 1550 or maybe even 1750, but I'd ask for Troy's blessing first, and do any mods he recommended. I can tell you that we've tested the Highlander on amphibs at 1550 and it handled the weight just fine from a performance perspective, and had no reason to believe we were overstressing the airframe.

So if you went 1550 lbs on a Highlander you'd have a payload (after 4 hours of fuel) of about 600 lbs, with a total useful of 700 lbs (that ironically is the same useful load number as my buddies Cessna 180 amphib that burns 13+ gph).

If you absolutely went nuts and decided to go to 1750 lbs max gross, your Highlander amphib would enjoy a useful load of approx 900 lbs, with an 800 lb payload after 4 hrs of fuel. But honestly, while I'm sure the airplane would handle it (especially if you observed maneuring speed limits like it was your new religion) I really couldn't see the need for that high of a gross unless you ended up with a real heavy empty weight Highlander. For me, I'm content at 1430 lbs LSA max on my Highlander when on its amphib floats, as I can make do just fine with 475 lbs payload after 4 hours of fuel.

That's a pretty long explanation to your question, but I thought any that are contemplating putting their Highlander on amphibs might like to know all that.

Overall, assuming it is kept reasonably light, the Highlander is one of the best choices you could make if you want an amphib floatplane.
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby Tralika » Fri Jan 08, 2016 10:11 am

av8rps wrote:Oh, and for the record, none of us liked the floats that were on the Highlanders at the time.


What kind of floats did you have and why were you not happy with them? Also, I notice the planes in the photos only have one water rudder. Did that work well for you, even in strong winds?
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby marl59 » Fri Jan 08, 2016 11:53 am

Thanks scubarider for the long and excellent information. You've answered all of my questions plus. Then the only other thing I would want to ask you is which brand and model floats you would recommend. Thanks again!
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby av8rps » Sun Jan 10, 2016 11:37 pm

Tralika wrote:
av8rps wrote:Oh, and for the record, none of us liked the floats that were on the Highlanders at the time.


What kind of floats did you have and why were you not happy with them? Also, I notice the planes in the photos only have one water rudder. Did that work well for you, even in strong winds?


The floats on both those Highlanders were the same, Downwind Technology 1650's. Smaller Downwind 1300's were initially used but they porpoised so bad they replaced them with the bigger float.

So where to start? I really disliked the landing gear mechanism, especially the nosewheel design. Just look at all those tubes causing gobs of drag. The gear also had no suspension, and was weak. And on the float itself, by design there is very little ground clearance from the ground to the step area, particularly under the main wheel. So the floats occassionally would drag across the pavement skidding up the bottoms. Also, since the floats shape is wide and flat, with very little rise on the rear, if you rotated off the runway you'd hit the tail of the floats as you lifted off, even with a modest rotate. And on water the back of the float would hit on lift off, dragging the water rudder, extending the takeoff run considerably. Another serious issue is how the rigging attached to the top of the float, which is very weak. Performance off the water was not good either, as you essentially had to wait for the wing to make enough lift to levitate the aircraft off the water. So take off runs were way longer than they should have been. Oh, and to answer your question, one water rudder worked, but not well in stronger winds.

I could probably go on and on about why I don't like those floats, but I think you probably have a good idea already...
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby Tralika » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:13 am

av8rps,
Thanks for the detailed reply. I've seen those Downwind Tech floats advertised, even had their web page bookmarked, but have never seen them in person or spoken to anyone who has flown them. I'm a way off from buying floats anytime soon (I'm in the process of painting my Highlander) but right now I'm leaning toward the Zenith floats. I've flown Baumann floats and thought they performed well. If I could find a set in good condition I might buy them but normally when you buy a set of floats in Alaska they are either really beat up or really expensive. I spoke to a guy that told me what a good deal he found on a set of floats that were rigged for his Stinson. They were in great shape except for the bullet holes. It's a long story that I won't bore you with now. In any case he was happy, all he had to do was patch those bullet holes and mount them on his plane. I was flying a 185 on Aerocet Amphibs last summer. I'm really not that crazy about amphibs but those are some very nice floats.
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Re: Highlander Float Planes

Postby av8rps » Thu Jan 14, 2016 11:10 pm

I really don't like to bash anyones product, so even though I'm not a fan of the Downwind, I do want to reiterate that they do in fact work. There's a local guy flying a set on a Rans S-7 that likes them. But he essentially rebuilt every part of them to get to the point he's at now. Also as another disclaimer, an inexperienced float flyer might not notice all the things I'm critical of.

Bauman made a great float. I love their mechanical actuated 1500 amphib, but really hard to find any of them around, and they would actually be a bit too big for a Highlander. And if you can find tbem used, even used they'll typically be 30k plus.

The new Aerocet LSA amphib is a hell of a float (just like their bigger floats), but big $$ for the average homebuilder type. My favorite float for a Highlander is a Czech built CZ 1300 amphib, which is an almost exact copy of a Wipaire 2100 amphib, just smaller. But they are as hard to find as the Bauman.

So the Zenair is still probably the most logical choice for our aircraft. Especially now that there are enough guys that have the rigging dialed in, so no one will need to "reinvent the wheel".
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