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John Riciotti: 2004-2008

October 14, 2004
The “Build it by the book “ mantra

Recently we have had some discussions about different ways to finish or build our Seawinds. Some replies have been “Build it by the book”. I contend that there are very few Seawinds (or homebuilts for that matter) that are built exactly by the book. I think that is the essence of homebuilding. We would probably all be flying Cessnas, Pipers or Lake Amphibians if we only wanted an airplane. Homebuilding is a huge endeavor, probably the biggest many of us will make in our lives.

The reasons we homebuild are many, but I would guess it is because we want something different, something unique, something that is our creation. For the money we will spend to build a Seawind, we could buy many different types of new and used certificated airplanes. I am sure we all believe that the Seawind is better than those certificated aircraft or we wouldn't be here. But to say the Seawind design is perfect is far from the truth. All aircraft have shortcomings. Hopefully our choice in aircraft will satisfy our needs and the shortcomings of the design will not hinder our ability to do what we want to accomplish with our aircraft.

As I mentioned before, very few aircraft are built by the book. The water rudder is one area where improvements have been made in aerodynamics and possibly safety. The water rudder improved design has removed the exterior rod which could possibly catch weeds and other debris in the water. It could be argued though that clamping additional cables onto the air rudder cables could possibly jam the air rudder if the water rudder mechanism became jammed. The engine cooling design (inlet shape and location) has been changed on many Seawinds, even on those “built by the book”. The fuel system also is being changed on airplanes “built by the book”. The fuel system is a particularly important part of every aircraft and especially homebuilt aircraft. I have read where the biggest cause of engine failures in homebuilt aircraft is due to the fuel system. It is only natural to want to try to improve reliability in this area.

My question is, “What changes constitute ‘Built by the book' and which do not?” My fear of hearing the “Build it by the book” mantra is that future innovations will be squashed. Would we not have learned about the water rudder design changes if the innovator was afraid to publish it (thankfully not!) for fear of others saying, “Why don't you just build it by the book”? I can tell you as the editor of our website that I get phone calls from builders who are very innovative but fear publishing their ideas due to public ridicule or even lawsuits. I think that this forum should allow the FREE flow of ideas and information to pool our collective minds and experiences. That is the best way to improve the Seawind and reduce the shortcomings of the design. Especially as we learn more about the Seawind through more aircraft in operation.

I believe that Paul Marshall, of Seawind,. explained it very clearly when he said, “As an experimental kit builder you have the freedom to make what ever changes you want to your aircraft. If the change makes for a better airplane, take a bow and the credit for the achievement. If the change creates a problem, take the responsibility for the failure, don't blame it on Seawind. Building an airplane is suppose to be an enjoyable adventure. For the Seawind owners I have tried to help make it that way the best that I can. But the bottom line is: it's up to you.” .

I can not blame SNA for not wanting any part of Seawinds that have been changed. In our litigious society that is only natural to protect their interests. That in essence is the beauty of homebuilding. You are the manufacturer and theoretically, Seawind SNA should not be liable. However, we all know what happens in an aircraft accident. Everyone gets sued. Understandably, SNA wants more control with what goes into an aircraft with their name on it. Hence, the certification process. Hopefully we will reap some benefits from what SNA learns during certification.

I would like this website to make everyone feel welcome to share and learn from the experiences of others. It is the most cost effective form of learning, especially in aviation where some lessons can cost you your life. I believe it is in everyone's best interest to make all feel welcome to share their ideas, thoughts and experiences. Let's face it, if we didn't strive to improve everyday we would still be banking airplanes by warping the wings. We can thank Glenn Curtiss for not “Building it by the Book”. Incidentally, Glenn Curtiss was sued by the Wrights.

(P.S. For those of you not part of the Member's Only forum, I would highly suggest it if you are building a Seawind or intend to build a Seawind. A lot of learning is contained in our members' posts.)

August 11, 2004
Hi to all Seawind builders, pilots and aficionados,

Please allow me to introduce myself as the new editor of our website. A couple of years back, Brent Carlson and I both offered to take over the web master duties of the Seawind Pilots website that Rod Teel created. Brent and I decided that he would initially run the website and some time down the road it would be my turn to step up to the plate. Well that time has come.

I would first like to commend Brent for enhancing our website with an incredible amount of information to help us become better builders and pilots of a most amazing amphibious aircraft. I hope that I can follow in Brent's footsteps and continue to help our Seawind community become more capable builders and aviators. I hope that the vast amount of time that Brent dedicated to the website will now be put to good use in finishing his Seawind.

I started my Seawind experience about 5 years ago when my sons and myself saw the Seawind at Oshkosh. One thing led to another and one of my sons was persuasive enough to talk me into buying a quick kit. We have had the kit for 4 years and slowly but surely we are making progress. We have many years to go but the end result will be worth ALL the effort. I truly believe it is the best airplane of it's kind for serious (but fun!) cross-country amphibious flying.

I have been flying for about 28 years and started out in the general aviation route and now am lucky enough to be flying for a major airline. Yes, I still love flying even though the past couple of years have been incredibly trying. . I am not new to aircraft maintenance or aircraft construction but I did not expect to be building a composite aircraft ever in my lifetime. I come from an aviation family, as my Dad was an aircraft mechanic and passed on considerable knowledge thru the repair of a wind-damaged Cessna we purchased while I was still in high school. I found the experience of working with my Dad to be extremely important during those potentially troublesome high school years. I look at the Seawind project to be equally important for my children.

This website which originated from newsletters of Mike Bowes and graduated to the online version courtesy of Rod Teel and further perfected by Brent Carlson has been extremely invaluable to me in trying to build the safest, most reliable amphibious on the market. I am sure that many of you have benefited, as I have, from the past leaders of this organization. I would like to ask your help (especially those that have completed their Seawinds) in adding to our website by contributing helpful tips about the building or flying of Seawinds. One area that I would like to expand upon is a photo section showing members solutions of how they solved construction fit and finish details. ‘One picture is worth a thousand words' comes to mind when I look at some of our members beautiful aircraft.

I would eventually like to put generic photos (without the owners name disclosed) of each section and/or detail of our aircraft. Therefore I would like to ask for submissions of any and all construction photos that you may have. I am especially interested in digital photos that I could post to the website quickly. Hopefully I will be able to tame the web monster and create a section on the website to accomplish this. Please be patient as this is my first time trying to manage a website. Thankfully flight management computers are a little easier to operate. We are all a lot safer due to that fact.

Again, please help make this site your site by contributing ANYTHING you might even remotely think is usable. You are welcome to email me directly at with any helpful suggestions or ideas you might think of to help improve OUR website. I can de-identify items that you might want to bring up. Similar to our NASA safety debriefs. We can all become better builders and pilots by learning from those that came before us.

I thank you in advance for the opportunity to help continue the educational process that many before me have willingly created.

Happy Building and Flying!

John Ricciotti