Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Charles Pottenger: Reflections from My Trail; Surprise! A Seaplane in Troy Mills, Iowa!

By Charles Pottenger 

Back in 1970 I was younger and always searching for adventure. That’s how I earned the possible distinction of being perhaps the first and only seaplane to ever visit Troy Mills, Iowa! Troy Mills is a quaint little farm town with almost nothing that distinguishes it from other places except that it sits on the bank of the Wapsipinnicon River! How this became important to me is the rest of the story.

In about 1969 I acquired a neat little Piper Cub airplane on floats so I could enjoy Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 Lakes!”

About the same time I met an Iowan, a new friend, Don Price, who had married a neighbor’s daughter and moved to Northern Minnesota to help with running her family’s fishing resort. Don, like me, was a recreational pilot and he was excited to learn that I, too, owned a Piper Cub.

However, as we got to know each other we could see he had a big problem trying to arrange to fly his Cub, on wheels, from the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area back to far northern Minnesota. I allowed that I’d be happy to fly my plane to Iowa to help him out, but could only go where there was water to land and take off. I thought that my willingness would be appreciated even though landing in the endless cornfields of Iowa was impossible.

Several weeks later Don surprised me with a proposition. He got out a road map and explained he had studied all water possibilities near to Cedar Rapids and based on his personal knowledge and on-site verifications had identified a perfect place that we could fly my Cub and land near to where his plane was stored. I asked lots of questions, and Don assured me this would be a “piece of cake!”

I was concerned as the 325 mile trip would entail about 225 miles over the lake country of Minnesota and Wisconsin followed by about 100 miles over monotonous Iowa cornfields! Furthermore, the last gas available would be from a Mississippi River marina in Dubuque from which we would need to fly to, and land on, the Wapsipinnicon River at Troy Mills, Iowa!

After landing, Don would have a friend meet him at Troy Mills and take him to his plane. I would overnight and then take-off for the return trip, first to Dubuque for gas and then back to Northern Minnesota.

It was to be an adventure I’d never forget. Don was always so positive with his reassurances and it seemed we had discussed every eventuality, consequently it was decided do it.

With full 12 gallons of gas, lunches and enthusiasm we took off headed to Troy Mills!

The flight down was fun and pleasant. We’d land every couple of hours for comfort and fuel and by mid-afternoon we were on the Mississippi at Dubuque. Leaving the mighty river behind we set out over the corn sea of Iowa.

Flying a float plane over corn is just as unnerving as flying a little land plane over the ocean. There is no safe place to land!

In about two hours we were nearing the mighty Wapsipinnicon River and Troy Mills. Over the corn I couldn’t make out either landmark until we finally spotted a church steeple. I circled Troy Mills a couple of times and except for a small stream I couldn’t spot the supposed landing area that Don had bragged about.

He shouted, “There it is!” I failed to see what he was seeing and finally realized that the mighty Wapsipinnicon was really just a lazy little stream meandering through endless Iowa corn country!

I flew up and down the Wapsipinnicon and found a stretch near Troy Mills where the overhanging tree branches looked to leave at least 40 feet of open water. We made a perfect landing. I carefully taxied under huge Cottonwood trees about a half mile downstream and pulled the Cub up on a muddy bank at Troy Mills! A small crowd gathered and excitedly exclaimed that they had never seen a seaplane before!

Of course, Don’s friend met him according to plan and I finally realized that I alone would have to take-off from under and between the tree canopy and Don would go get his plane at a nice airport. Needless to say, although the return take-off was exhilarating it was uneventful and we both made the trip home safely. I never have returned to Troy Mills!

Don and I remain friends.

Original article ➤ http://www.clearwatertribune.com

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