Water Skiing Aircraft

Is Performing Touch And Goes On A Lake Dangerous?

There are many who believe that photos showing aircraft water skiing across the surface of a lake (like the one below from NZ Aviation News) are simply fake Photoshop jobs. Check out the video of a water skiing Tiger Moth biplane below, and see if you're a believer or not...

A Piper Cub performs a water skiing display on Lake Ruataniwha, on New Zealand's South Island.      Photo: © John King, NZ Aviation News


A Water Skiing Tiger Moth

Ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force fighter pilot David Philips is a highly experienced display pilot who often flies routines in de Havilland Tigher Moth biplanes at airshows and events all around New Zealand. In late 2013 New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority granted permission for Dave to fly a display routine including water skiing at Lake Karapiro on the North Island of New Zealand.

Many people, both pilots and non-aviators are critical of this type of display, suggesting that it is foolhardy and reckless. Certainly if these sorts of displays were to be attempted by low time pilots they would be dangerous, just as many types of flying is for aviators with only a small amount of experience. However, when done in a thoroughly planned manner, and only when the local weather conditions are suitable, hydroplaning a wheeled aircraft across a lake's surface is a relatively straight forward 'act'. Many aviators have noted that the art of great display flying is to '...make the easy look difficult and dangerous...'

Dave Phillips eases Tiger Moth ZK-BEN onto the water at Lake Karapiro in New Zealand...

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Plainly, pilots should not attempt to replicate these sorts of routines without thorough planning, and without a strong knowledge of the physics that allow an aircraft to hydroplane in this manner.


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