ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) — Over twenty pilots flew in for the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association’s annual Splash-In at Pokagon State Park on Sunday.
“These airplanes are coming from all around the Midwest to share their seaplanes with the folks here on Lake James,” said Randy Strebig, the organizer of the event and president of the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association.
The seaplanes flew in from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Strebig estimated that there were 24 total.
Once the planes land in the lake, they taxi up the lawn behind the Potawatomi Inn and park. In previous years when the coronavirus wasn’t a factor, pilots would typically give spectators tours and rides on their seaplanes.
Strebig started this annual event 18 years ago as an advocacy effort.
“This is a great fun advocacy event disguised as a seaplane fly-in, that’s really what we’ve got going on here,” said Strebig. “Indiana was very limited on seaplane access to our public fresh water lakes and reservoirs. People did not what to wrap their heads around seaplanes and boats sharing the same body of water.”
He said thought organizing a Spash-In would be a great way to educate people and show them how well boats and seaplanes can cohabitate in the same lake— and over the last 18 years, his efforts have been successful.
“What we’ve done over these years is changed state law to better align with the federal aviation disposition on seaplanes,” said Strebig. “We’ve opened up nearly 40 bodies of water as certificated landing areas and people’s fear about the unknown is pretty much gone.”
Jay Tuthill, a seaplane pilot who flew in from Chicago, said in addition to demonstrating that seaplanes can be safe, these types of events are important for aviation in general.
“It’s so important to have people see how much fun it is,” said Tuthill. “We need more pilots in the world and it’s through events like this that we have a chance to recruit them.”
Strebig said like many events this year, he expected the Splash-In to get cancelled because of the coronavirus, but with help from the state park leaders, he was able to create a plan to keep the hundreds of spectators at the event safe.
“The park worked with me to create a circulation pattern and we made masks to give out to people who didn’t have one,” said Strebig. “If you look around most people are being very responsible.”
For more information about the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association click here.