My love for the Sea Bee goes back a long way. My dad Eric bought his first "Bee" in 1950 when I was a very young boy. He operated it commercially & really enjoyed flying it. After I received my pilots license we bought our second "Bee", & I have been an active Sea Bee pilot ever since. In my opinion it is a great aircraft, one of the best recreational aircraft of all times. We flew the Bee with the original Franklin engine for 28 years and have many fond memories of the trips we made.

In late 1997, the Franklin was due for another overhaul and I had a decision to make. I believe there were three viable options for me:

Rear view with cowling on
  1. Repair the Franklin again.
  2. Install a Certified Aircraft Engine Conversion.
  3. Install an automotive engine conversion.

Unfortunately, the last new Franklin parts were produced in the late 40's. Overhauling a Franklin involves a resourceful mechanic, a lot of ingenuity and a combination of installing some automotive components (e.g. Crankshaft and rod bearings), reworking existing components (e.g. Camshaft), and welding up 50 year old cylinders to allow installation of modern aircraft valve seats and guides. After much effort, you still end up with an obsolete engine.

The most popular certified aircraft engine conversion for this aircraft involves installing the GO 480 series of engines. This is an expensive option, and the GO 480 engine is 1960's technology. Removing one obsolete engine to install another obsolete engine did not make a lot of sense to me. There are a limited number of other approved aircraft engines for the Bee, but the conversions are all expensive.

The automotive engine conversion option offered the following possible benefits:

  1. fuel efficient engines
  2. reduced maintenance costs
  3. improved power to weight ratios
  4. improved engine and parts availability
  5. the option of easily including modern creature comforts (e.g. Heating and air conditioning)

Based on all of the above factors, the decision was easy. I decided to proceed with automotive conversion and set the following objectives and principles

  • Improved reliability and safety over existing installation (500 Cu. In. Franklin rated @ 215 H.P. @ 2575 R.P.M.)
  • Equal or better performance
  • No change in flying qualities (I like the way the Bee flies!)
  • Minimum change to airframe structure and appearance
  • Ease of maintenance (component availability, visibility, and access)
  • Reduced environmental impact (mainly via reduced noise footprint)
  • Improved creature comfort (cabin noise levels, cabin heating and cooling systems)
  • Use commercially available stock components where ever possible.
  • KISS (keep it simple stupid!)
Rear view with cowling off
Front View Mounted Engine
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