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ISSUE 35 - October 2008
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By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

A line-up of 5 Republic Seabees at the Classic Air Rallye in Ottawa, Ontario at Rockcliffe.

One of the more unusual civilian amphibious airplanes that graces our skies is the Republic Seabee. Odd looking, almost ungainly on the ground and looking like it couldn’t or even shouldn’t fly, the Seabee does and it has become a very sought after airplane.

At the end of the taxiway preparing for take-off in the airshow portion of the day.

With a bulbous nose sticking out front, looking more like a giant metal bee than an airplane, the Seabee always turns heads. It has ‘nose’ doors that swing up and over the cockpit, a rear fuselage that looks more like a tail boom for an ultralight rather than a heavy airplane, and a pusher prop behind a powerful engine. The most ugly beautiful airplane money can buy.

A Seabee taxis past a waiting DHC-2 de Havilland Canada Beaver, left. A Seabee climbs out after take-off, right.

Originally designed by Percival Hopkins Spencer as the “Spencer Amphibian Air Car #1” in the early 1940’s, a restriction on civilian flying in the USA during WWII meant the airplane had to be put in storage. However, in 1943 the aircraft patent was sold to Republic Aviation Corporation and became the Republic “Seabee.”

Two Seabees on climb out after take-off, joining the airshow circuit for their passes, left. One of the 5 Seabee’s doing a fly-past, right.

At the Classic Air Rallye in Ottawa, Ontario 5 Seabee’s gathered to show off their mystique, their prowess, and their interesting, if not obscure, lines. Of the 5 airplanes at the show, 3 were from the US and two were Canadian registered aircraft and all flew demonstration circuits for the crowd.

Two more of the 5 offering a look at their Seabee paint scheme.

This classic and wonderful little 4-seater can torque through the air at a comfortable cruise of 120 - 130mph with a stall speed around 60mph. More surprising is take-off and landing performance. On land, take-off can be accomplished in 800’ and landing in 400’. From water, depending on the engine, take-off and landing can be performed equally at approximately 700’. With a range of about 500 miles and a fuel burn of 12-15gph (depending on the engine), the Seabee can be an affordable, versatile airplane capable of taking you places.

One of the most beautiful looking Seabee’s around today, the Canadian registered C-FILM, perfect for photographing, even in digital!

If the Seabee can be famous for one thing it might be for its appearance with Roger Moore in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Flying low above the water, dodging the emerald green beautiful islands of Koh Khao Phing Kan in the Phang Nga province in Thailand, the airplane eventually lands and step-taxi’s into a cove and up on the beach. Eventually, and much to the dismay of all Seabee pilot’s, the Seabee is blown up and burned a few scenes later. Though not the only movie appearance, it is probably the most notable.

US registered Seabee on a pass with the Beaver in the background making its way around for the crowd, left. One of the Seabee’s just before touchdown, right.

Some variants to the original Seabee are the conversion to a more powerful, V-8 engine and the twin engine variant known as the “Twin-Bee.” There have also been a few aircraft manufacturers who have built their own versions including the Italian built “Riviera” with a twin tail boom; and the Trident TR-1 “Trigull” by Viking Air Ltd of Vancouver, British Columbia. Though beautiful aircraft both, the original Seabee is truly a one-and-only.

On final for a pass and looking so shiny and clean, left. Wheels down and locked as the Seabee pilot fights the crosswind on final, right.
The line-up of 5 against the huge hangar doors of the National Aviation Museum at Rockcliffe in Ottawa, Ontario, left. Canadian registered Seabee C-FILM a few feet off the ground on final.

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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