My Flight Over Lake Como in a Friend's Floatplane was AWESOME
But did it take away some of the mystery of the lake?
The floatplane looked a lot smaller than I expected.
Brent and I came to Como, Italy, to meet up with an old nomad friend, Javier, who had come to the lake himself to get his European floatplane license. Shortly after we arrived, he offered to take us up with him over Lake Como during one of his lessons.
There was only room for one passenger during the lesson, so I went first.
Javier told me in advance we’d be in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, the most common plane in the world. The company has built more than 44,000 of the planes, which can be floatplanes or not. That’s four times more than the number of Boeing 737s, the most popular commercial airline plane.
But it sure was dinky. The aluminum pontoons which replaced the wheeled landing gear looked about the size of small kayaks.
I wasn’t surprised two men could easily roll it out of the hangar and down to the lake.
The passenger compartment looked ridiculously small too. It looked barely big enough for two people, much less the four it could supposedly hold.
Would I get claustrophobic? I was going to be trapped in there for the next hour and a half, high above Lake Como.
I felt a twinge of nervousness, which surprised me. After all, I once worked as a flight attendant, and I’d taken a floatplane once before.
Then again, a small plane had just crashed in Nepal — I’d seen the picture of the strewn wreckage in the paper two days earlier. And while I had great faith in Javier, he was still a student.
But I was excited too. Ever since Javier had made the tentative offer to take us up, it had been hard to keep myself from messaging him to ask, When??!?
Javier proceeded to do his external check of the airplane — and then started hand-pumping the water out of the pontoons, something that had to be done before each flight.
Javier conferred with the ground crew, then approached me with a grim look on his face.
Bad news, he said. He’d left a note for the crew explaining there would be three people flying that morning, not two. They’d been supposed to put in less fuel.
But they’d put in the usual amount. That meant that with me on board, there could be a problem with the weight and balance of the plane during take off. The instructor agreed they could make one attempt, but if they had to abort it, we’d taxi back to the dock and I’d have to get out.
Umm, okay, I thought, I’m not so crazy about maybe aborting our take-off.
I was also disappointed, but I tried not to show it. Javier had gone to great lengths to make this happen, and I didn’t want to make him feel bad if it didn’t.
I introduced myself to Lorenzo, the flight instructor, and thanked him for letting me come. But he acted rather gruff. Did he not want me here?
Finally, we all climbed into the plane — which felt roomier inside than it had looked from outside.
We taxied out into the lake to take off. The engines were surprisingly loud, and I was really grateful Javier’s girlfriend Missy had lent me her noise-cancelling headphones.
Javier did a few more pre-flight checks, gave me a thumbs up, and hit the gas. The plane roared forward across the lake, skipping over the surface like a big stone.
I just hoped we weren’t about to sink like a stone.
The floatplane bounced, and we all bounced with it.
But we didn’t lift off.
It’s not going to happen, I thought. Oh, well. At least we got this far.
I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. But no, wait, this was an actual sinking feeling — because we were finally airborne!
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