July 2010 message from Perry Melvin:
I have enclosed some pictures, but I am afraid that my Widgeon is far from the cream puffs on your web site. It is a 1946 G-44A, McDermott Conversion, which I restored approximately 30 years ago. We did several things to improve the aircraft and let some things go, that in retrospect I wish I had done, primarily to re-design the instrument panel to have center stack radios. We did metalize the flaps, and wings, installed a Century III Auto Pilot, and converted it to a 24 volt electrical system with dual alternators. The hydraulic system was also changed as per Grumman's Bulletin 24. Later on we installed the McCauley three blade propellers which has greatly improved performance. The McDermott conversion has Cont. IO-470 260 HP engines which the McKinnon folks say makes the aircraft under powered, but there are advantages in fuel consumption and engine overhaul costs plus we are rid of the dreaded Hartzell props. We are based in Warner Robins, GA and are the only G-44 in the state.
I received my MES rating in a Ranger Widgeon in Miami, Florida with a gentleman named Joe Maguire. We would start flying at 8:00 AM so as to avoid the worst heat of the day. All of our landings were done in Biscayne Bay between Miami Beech and the mainland. Our pattern would take us over the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which must have been very disconcerting to the drivers just below us. I remember sitting in the water and looking out the window to see sea grass rising from the bottom, which must have been no more than 3 or 4 feet deep. The Widgeon is a one of a kind airplane and has been an absolute delight to fly, making all the maintenance problems and expense worthwhile.
I hope the pictures are satisfactory. I plan to make it to Sun-N-Fun next year. Sun-N-Fun, I am afraid, has eclipsed Oshkosh as far as the water show is concerned, ever since it was moved to Fantasy of Flight two years ago. There were over 100 float planes and flying boats there at one time this year, and the activity is non stop. I hope to see you there in 2011. Let me know what you think of the pictures.