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Curator's Choice Video Collection

Cradle of Aviation Museum Historian and Curator, Josh Stoff, curates interesting short YouTube videos and provides commentary.

Virtual Museum Home > Curator's Choice > What it's like to fly a Seabee

What it's like to fly a Seabee

YouTube Channel: AOPALive, posted July 28, 2015

The Republic RC-3 Seabee, built in Farmingdale, was a unique all-metal sport amphibian first produced in 1944. As World War Two was winding down, Republic realized they would have to produce something other than military aircraft if they wanted to stay in business. Coincidently, a Republic test pilot, Percival Spencer, had developed an all-wood amphibian of his own design, the Spencer S-12 Air Car, that was first flown in 1941. Spencer demonstrated his ‘Air Car’ to Republic management who immediately saw the potential of the Air Car as the perfect sports plane for the many thousands of military pilots returning from the war. Republic quickly purchased the rights and re-engineered the aircraft in an enlarged all-metal version.

Originally called the ‘Thunderbolt Amphibian’, in order to appeal to ex-military pilots, by mid-1945 Republic had received 2000 orders for the $3500 airplane. Renamed the ‘Seabee’ in 1946, Republic endeavored to build it as quickly and inexpensively as possible while still retaining reasonable performance. As one example, the wing’s skin was made of heavy corrugated aluminum, eliminating the need for traditional wing ribs. However, Republic, as all other postwar aircraft manufacturers learned, that returning military pilots greatly preferred buying houses in Levittown, rather than sport aircraft, and all who entered the civil aviation market then lost money. Due to weak sales, and increased military orders, Republic halted production of the Seabee in 1947 after 1060 had been produced. A solid, roomy, well-built and dependable aircraft, over 250 still remain airworthy today.

The Cradle of Aviation Museum has an airworthy Republic Seabee on exhibit, suspended, in its ‘Jet age’ gallery. In a historical footnote, when Republic halted Seabee production they sold their remaining stock of six-cylinder Franklin engines to Preston Tucker who modified them for use in his short-lived but famous Tucker automobiles.

Now, let's take a quick flight in a beautifully restored, and upgraded, Long Island built Republic Seabee!