Mastering the Mallard with Daniel Bolton

May 12, 2022

From a young age, Daniel Bolton has always had water as part of his surroundings, whether this be through his keen interest in water skiing, through to his father’s seaplane business, which he founded during the later years of his primary education. At the time, Bolton wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, and the industry had a shortage of pilots, so his father talked him into jumping in the cockpit and Bolton started his training. 14 years later, and he hasn't looked back.

During the early days and foundation of his father’s business, the GFC happened; however, the timing worked in Bolton’s favour - he started working and flying alongside his father to keep the business and its operations running smoothly. The pocket money earned over those summer months kick started his career, and was offered a job with the team at Air Whitsunday shortly after.

“I love being down on the waterfront rather than an airport.”

As Bolton’s career has progressed, so too have the planes and cockpits he now finds himself in. Starting in the Cessna 206 with his father, he moved into the Beaver and Caravan at Air Whitsunday, and now, Bolton finds himself behind a Mallard, and calls on his experience to navigate the larger aircraft and its demands. He’s been flying this for over five years now. “It really has grown on me so much. Now I have a real respect for the aeroplane and its history.”

The Mallards are owned by Paspaley, where their operation is for the farming of pearls. The locations of these are remote, nestled out of the Kimberley region of Australia. He helps transport workers, fresh produce, and pearls to and from the mainland.

He enjoys having the opportunity to work with a crew and turbine aircraft that operates fairly close to the standards of most airlines, and then being able to take it and put it into some challenging water environments. “The Mallard handles the ocean water conditions a lot better than floatplanes,” he notes, “We go into some pretty challenging water conditions!”

“No landing is generally the same.”

Not only does he navigate the bigger body of the Mallard, he also has a good eye and understanding of the big blue body of the ocean and its movements. Knowing this information is critical, especially when landing, not only to ensure it is safe, but also to watch out for sea life and other obstacles, such as boat traffic, both in and above the surface level. Other considerations for landing include wind, tide, and currents. Bolton prides himself on being a sea pilot. “There are a lot of variables to consider in the water flying aspect.”

Variety is also what he enjoys, as he can still fly into land-based strips with instrument approach and two crew procedures.

The Mallard changed Bolton’s perspective on water flying. “Stepping onto the Mallard and into this flying boat was just an incredible challenge,” he notes, “it completely changed how I thought water flying could be. It’s just awesome to get out there and be in the water.”

There are many more factors to take into consideration when flying seaplanes, as Bolton notes.

“One of the questions I often get asked is what wave height limitations do you have in the Mallard, and it’s about 75 centimetres (2.5 feet). There’s a difference between a swell versus a wind chop. You have to judge that while you’re flying 80 knots, 10 feet above the water too, which isn’t very easy. Sometimes you get down to the water and you have to go around because it’s not what you thought it was.”

Giving Back

In Australia, there are limited options available when it comes to seaplane training and endorsement, which is where Bolton, after a chat with a friend, has now set up a training course for this. “It's a positive thing for the industry to have someone like myself with a fair bit of experience now in the seaplane industry to be able to give back and train others who have these aircraft, or just want to improve their own flying skills and try something different.”

Making it work

When Covid started, Bolton, alongside many other aviators around the world, were grounded and unable to fly. So, instead of passing time, he proactively continued to fuel his passion and dive into podcasts.”I was like I wonder if there's a way I can kind of learn more about stuff, whether it be aviation or just anything in general.”

He got in contact with others around the world, and set up his recording studio. He's recorded 68 episodes so far, and assures us there are many more to come - you can tune into his podcasts here.

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