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Joining the Caravan

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The 675 Caravan floatplane costs $1.5 million, including Wipaire's Wipline floats, which are worth $250,000. Be forewarned: Delivery time averages seven months. St. Paul-based Wipaire can also customize your Caravan à la private jet, with executive sleeper seats and an entertainment center.

Pilots must have a single-engine land certification and a single-engine seaplane endorsement. The purchase price of a Caravan includes training (both in simulators and the new plane) for two pilots and one mechanic at Flight Safety International in Wichita. Wipaire provides 10 to 15 hours of pilot instruction on using floats.

Cessnas are a good investment; even the 1985 models are selling for an average of 120 percent of their original price, according to the current Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest. Contact: Cessna Aircraft Co., 316-517-6081; Mark Schmokel at Wipaire, Inc., 651-286-7005.

Wing Men
Shoreline Aviation, floatplane specialists based in New Haven, Connecticut, provides many levels of support for Caravan owners, and has the special maintenance expertise required for a plane that travels to remote places. These specialists can "manage" your plane, providing pilots for short or long hauls, or ferrying it to remote locales. (Two years ago, Shoreline's John Kelly flew a Caravan to Chile to meet the plane's owner fo a long fishing trip, then stayed on as a backup pilot.) The company also arranges charter contracts, agreements that allow Shorelin to use the Caravan when the owner is not flying it. Contact: John Kelly at Shoreline Aviation, Inc., 203-468-8639.

A Plane For All Seasons
In winter icing conditions, floatplanes cannot legally fly because iced floats create drag, but that doesn't mean the plane is grounded. Owners can replace the floats with wheels (a six-hour process at Wipaire). There are even some Caravans in Canada on skis. Contact: Mel Christian & Co., manufacturer of the Kehler Ski Line, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; 204-383-5767.


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