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Seaplanes & Floatplanes

FMI: Seaplane Pilots Association

Flying a seaplane allows you to combine the fun of boating with being airborne. Seaplanes allow you access to some of the most pristine wilderness areas in the country, and you take your boat with you in the form of your airplane. Imagine landing on a remote lake, dropping anchor, and casting for a lunker trout, bass, or pike. Airplanes equipped with amphibious floats, which have retractable wheels, have the added advantage of flying from airports as well as water. Plus, seaplanes are fun to fly.

Although an additional rating is required to fly floatplanes, it is considered one of the easier—and more enjoyable—add-on ratings to obtain. No written examination is required, and the necessary flying can be accomplished in the matter of a few days. It’s the sort of thing you can accomplish on vacation or a long weekend.

What is a seaplane?
Seaplanes can be amphibians, meaning they are capable of land as well as water operations, or they can be straight floats, meaning they land and takeoff exclusively on water.

Many seaplanes are traditional land-based planes with their wheels replaced with floats. This is probably the image you think about when you hear the word seaplane. Others though, are more like flying boats. They alight on the water on their hulls, much like a boat moving through the seas. Their much larger ancestors included the great China Clippers and the Spruce Goose, whose legacies extend to the very dawn of aviation.

While most seaplanes today are single engine aircraft, you’ll find others powered with twin engines. The new Light Sport Category of aircraft includes many seaplanes, both hull type and float planes.  These aircraft, regardless of their configuration, have only two seats and have maximum weight limitations. But their pilots are extended more liberal flight training and medical requirements by the FAA, and their costs are generally significantly lower and comparable to the costs of recreational boats.

Where can you fly a seaplane?
Seaplane pilots can fly to lakeside getaways, fishing excursions and remote destinations all over the world.

Why are seaplanes wonderful?
Water flying will transport you to grandeur that will take your breath away! Seaplanes are the pixie dust in aviation that takes you to worlds of adventure and majesty that no other aircraft can duplicate. The most elegant airport FBOs in the world can’t compare with the magical places seaplanes call home. Seaplanes are distinctive craft designed to travel to that very special realm where land, air, and sea merge as one.

What training do you need to fly a seaplane?

The typical path of a seaplane pilot is to first obtain a single-engine land pilot certificate and then obtain a single-engine sea add-on rating. To earn a seaplane rating, you must demonstrate proficiency. There is no set level of experience for the rating. Six to eight flight hours is enough time for most pilots to become proficient. There are accelerated flight schools where students can receive a seaplanes rating in half the usual time. It is noteworthy that some students will need more than eight hours to reach self- or government-imposed standards. The Seaplane Pilots Association publishes a directory of seaplane flight schools and flight instructors online.

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