A pit stop by a massive seaplane Friday in Madison turned heads and stopped unsuspecting boaters, bikers and walkers surprised by its arrival.
The aircraft is no ordinary seaplane. It includes luxury accommodations, custom scuba tank storage and has traveled the world.
The twin-engine prop plane, a restored 1951 Grumman HU-16B Albatross, is registered to TP Universal Exports in Eagan, Minnesota, according to the online flight-tracking website Flightaware. The plane landed on Lake Mendota near Picnic Point before taking off and landing on Lake Monona around 12:30 p.m.
It anchored about 300 yards in front of Monona Terrace, where one person from the plane walked out on a wing and dove into the lake. The aircraft later taxied toward Squaw Bay before turning around and taking off toward John Nolen Drive and Monona Bay.
“They’ve seen numerous seaplanes but nothing near that size,” Lt. Kerry Porter of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office said of the deputies on the lakes patrol. “It’s perfectly legal.”
According to TP’s website, the company, known as TP Areo and owned by Tony Phillippi, restores and maintains vintage aircraft. The Albatross, according to the company’s website, is 62 feet long, weighs 36,000 pounds and has a 96-foot wingspan. Pictures of the interior show extra-wide leather seats, inlaid wooden tables, stone counter tops and recessed ambient lighting.
Several bikers and walkers stopped their travels on the Capital City Trail along Lake Monona, and workers from the convention center also emerged to check out the unusual sight.
Justin Nunely, 21, of Milwaukee, was fishing along the terrace wall and watched the plane come in from the south and land on Lake Monona among the water skiers, kayakers and anglers.
“It was crazy,” Nunely said. “I thought he was going to keep going to the airport, but then he landed.”