Carson pilot says plane will soar again (and land without sinking) | NevadaAppeal.com
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Carson pilot says plane will soar again (and land without sinking)

Barry Ginter

Frank Hublou knows what a plane crash looks like. In fact, as a Vietnam-era Air Force pilot, he’s had some close calls landing jets with mechanical problems.

But the sinking of his 1947 Republic Seabee in Lake Tahoe on Sept. 11 wasn’t quite dramatic enough to be labeled a crash, said the Carson City pilot. The events of that day were well chronicled in local newspapers, including in the Nevada Appeal, (which carried a headline with the word “crash”). The word “incident” is probably a better fit.

On that day, Hublou, 72, who was finishing up the flight hours he needed to become certified to carry passengers in that type of craft, was flying with friend John Schottenheimer. It was a fine day until his second landing, when they touched down at about 60 mph on the north end of the lake near Burnt Cedar Beach.

“I knew we’d smacked something,” he said.

Here, I’m tempted to give this story a dramatic spin by suggesting Hublou struck Tahoe Tessie, the lake’s legendary mythical monster. But who knows what it really was … possibly a log or other piece of flotsam. In fact, the two pilots quickly forgot about it and went about their business, as there didn’t seem to be any damage.

It wasn’t long before Hublou noticed the left wing sagging toward the water, but even then the gravity of the situation wasn’t clear.

“Neither John nor I knew we were about to tip over in the next 10 to 15 minutes,” he said.

The damage was to the pontoon, which was taking on water. They began to taxi the plane toward shore, but eventually all they could accomplish was going in circles as the wing touched water.

“We said ‘its time to leave the Titanic,'” said Hublou. “My first thought when we decided to jump ship was hypothermia.”

They were about a mile offshore, but he was surprised when the water actually felt warm. And help came quickly, so they didn’t have to spend much time in the water.

A little while later, as he watched his plane begin to dip beneath the waves, Hublou started to think about more practical matters. “My thought was ‘there goes my retirement fund,'” he said. Raising a plane from about a thousand feet of water would be anything but cheap, and Hublou knew the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency would never allow him to leave it at the bottom of the lake. To add further insult, the pressure at that depth would have ruined the plane.

That’s why he has rave reviews for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, whose members worked to keep the plane afloat and towed it close to shore in 20 feet of water. That made for a much cheaper salvage later on.

Hublou, a former engineer with IBM and Hewlett Packard who moved to Carson City nine years ago to take advantage of the airport, said his plane is now back in its hangar at the airport. He’s getting it ready for another flight, although that won’t come this year. The engine is in fine shape, but there are plenty of other repairs from the salvage operation, he said.

There aren’t that many Republic Seabees left … he guessed around 300, with possibly 100 still flying. The week his plane sank, he learned, two other Seabees were destroyed in Hurricane Hanna on the East Coast.

You may have thought that ” with the exception of Oktoberfest this weekend and Nevada Day on Nov. 1 ” Carson City’s festival season was over. But Carson City resident Laura Adler has some advice for you ” don’t forget about the second annual Scandinavian Festival.

Adler is a proud Norwegian-American and one of about 47 members of the Daughters of Norway Queen Maud Lodge who put on the event, a fundraiser for their club and for the charities they support.

They’re not quite ready to compete with Nevada Day, but Adler said it’s a great way to learn about the culture of the Scandinavian countries. That includes lots of Scandinavian baked goods (such as lefse), but thankfully no lutefisk (which is a Scandinavian recipe for fish that involves soaking them with lye).

They will be wearing the national costumes of Norway, demonstrating Scandinavian forms of art, telling Scandinavian folk tales for children and singing Scandinavian songs.

Adler said it’s also a good place to get a good strong cup of coffee. People in Norway drink more coffee per capita than anywhere else, she said, and they don’t like it watered down.

“Lots of Americans don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee,” she said.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1201 Saliman Road in Carson City.

For more information, call Adler at 762-3734.

Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at bginter@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.