Not too long ago a friend of mine wondered why, in Johnny’s world, they travel around just in flying boats. Why no ordinary airplanes that land on normal runways with rubber tires?
Well, I never said in the book that there weren’t airplanes like that. But in the 1920s and 1930s, in the real world, most of the great international air routes were handled by flying boats much like the Como Eagle that Johnny flies in. These magnificent machines started going out of style and by the 1950s weren’t much used for passenger travel. So they’ve come to represent a time when international flight was more glamorous and exciting. At least that’s how I feel. I mean, how much cooler is a Como Eagle (based on the famous Pan Am Clipper of the 1930s) than a 757 or an Airbus?
And there’s another, more personal reason why I’m fond of these great old aircraft.
When I was just a little kid my parents and I would go on fishing trips. On a few of those trips we flew into remote lakes that could only be gotten to by air. And this is one of the aircraft we flew on.
It’s called a Seabee and it’s a flying boat, though a small one. And it’s a flying boat because the bottom of the aircraft is actually a boat hull.
Our pilot was a man named Warren LaPanta and I was agog at how busy he got during the incredibly noisy, bouncy takeoffs–madly pumping pedals, gripping the yoke (steering wheel) in one hand, and turning a crank above his head with the other. After flying with Warren several times, I determined that bush piloting was the dream career for me. Of course, I changed my mind a year or two later. Still, those four or five round-trips with Warren–among the earliest airplane rides of my life–remain vivid in my memory.
One thing’s for sure. That little rattletrap Seabee cemented my love of flying boats forever.