Following FAA approval being granted in July 2013, Wipaire Inc. received Brazilian approval this January for its Wipline 8750 floats for the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and Grand Caravan EX. The company first received Brazilian validation for the floats on the Model 208 Cessna Caravan in September 2012. Installation of the floats includes a gross weight increase to 8,750 pounds for the earlier Cessna Caravan 208, and are compatible with an aftermarket gross weight increase to 9,062 pounds for the 208B Cessna Grand Caravan and EX.
Wipaire redesigned the floats with a new hull shape to improve handling on rough water, aided by additional buoyancy in the aft section of the float. The wheels’ oleo design has been improved, while the main gear retraction system has been redesigned to reduce maintenance requirements. The floats impose no landing weight restrictions for either land or water operations.Wipline 8750 floats for the basic Caravan are listed at $290,000 for the seaplane version (without wheels) and $403,000 for the amphibian, plus an installation charge. Seaplane floats for the 208B Grand Caravan are priced at $318,000, while amphibian units are $448,600.
Based at Fleming Field, St Paul, Minnesota, Wipaire claims to be the world’s leading float manufacturer, as well as providing a wide variety of aircraft modification, sales, brokerage and training services. It is currently the only manufacturer to provide certified floats for the Twin Otter/Viking 400, Cessna Caravan series, Quest Kodiak and the Pilatus PC-6, and supplies floats for a wide variety of aircraft from the Piper Cub to the Twin Otter.
In recent times, the company has seen a resurgence in waterborne aviation. “In the last three to four years the seaplane concept has really taken root,” Haig Hagopian, v-p of international sales told AIN. “It’s around the world. Asia is booming – all of it.” The biggest market is the Maldives, where 45 Twin Otters are currently operating on Wipaire floats in support of the tourism industry.
In Brazil and Latin America the market is slowly increasing, and Wipaire has a number of negotiations expected to come to fruition soon. Much of the interest centers on Cessna’s 206 and 208 Caravan, but the Twin Otter is also increasing in importance for float operations. The upward trend is partly due to operators realizing that some tasks that are currently performed by helicopters can be accomplished more cost effectivelyby seaplanes. “We can’t replace the helicopter,” said Hagopian, “but we can provide an alternative.”
Wipaire holds a large number of STCs for modifications and upgrades, among the most popular of which are power and gross weight increases for the Caravan, and the addition of a co-pilot door for the Cessna 206. Approved in Brazil is Wipaire’s single-point refuelling (SPR) modification for the Cessna Caravan, Grand Caravan, Grand Caravan EX, and Quest Kodiak. The latest G-2 version of the SPR kit includes a touchscreen display that can be easily accessed by both ground staff and the pilot. Applicable to both Garmin G1000-equipped aircraft and those with older systems, the G-2 allows refueling to be performed without having to power up the aircraft via the master switch. This modification is priced at $48,000 installed for aircraft equipped with Wipline 8750 floats, or $42,400 for landplanes and those with Wipline 8000 floats.