How To Fly A Seaplane

Are you looking for a new hobby or maybe even a career change in aviation? If so, learning to fly a seaplane might be the perfect choice.

How To Fly A Seaplane

Seaplanes are versatile aircraft that can take off from land or water. They can also be used in several scenarios, from leisure flights to fighting fires in remote areas.

The best part is that they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to learn how to operate.

So if you have always wanted to learn how to fly but didn’t know where to start, here are some tips on how to get started with flying a seaplane.

What Are Seaplanes?

Seaplanes are amphibious aircraft that are designed to operate both on land and the surface of the water. 

Seaplanes, also commonly known as float planes, are the most popular type of seaplane.

They have a very low profile which makes them ideal for landing on lakes and rivers. They can also be operated from small airports and marinas.

They are best suited to short-distance flying, such as sightseeing trips around lakes and coastal regions.

Seaplanes are usually powered by twin-piston engines and can carry passengers or cargo.

The first seaplane was built in 1898, and they are still widely used.

What You Need To Know To Fly A Seaplane

Learning to fly a seaplane requires training and certification. Several organizations offer courses to teach pilots how to fly these types of planes.

Some of them include the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and a range of flight schools with lakes or the sea nearby.

If you’re interested in learning how to fly a seaplane, here is what you need to know:

What Kind Of Aircraft Is It?

A seaplane is an amphibious airplane that has two sets of wings. One set is attached to the fuselage, while the other one is located above it.

This allows the plane to float when it lands on water. You should familiarize yourself with your aircraft as much as possible.

Although there are not a lot of differences to your standard light aircraft, some seaplanes have their specific instruments.

How Does It Work?

The main purpose of a seaplane is to provide transportation between land and water. The pilot can retract the plane’s normal landing gear and switch to the floats in mid-air. 

When the plane comes close to the shoreline, the pilot can then lower the landing gear with the floats and touch down on the water.

Where Can You Land With A Seaplane?

How To Fly A Seaplane

Generally, you can use a seaplane to travel anywhere there is water. The plane can land on lakes, rivers, oceans, and even large bodies of water like bays and estuaries.

Seaplanes are equipped with floats, making them suitable for landing on any body of water.

Although most states in the US allow you to land almost anywhere, there are some local restrictions where you can land with a float plane. 

Check your sectional chart for these particular spots. You will notice an anchor, which is sometimes slightly tilted to the side.

The tilt indicates the best takeoff and landing directions. It’s similar to the orientation of a runway.

Not having a runway, and being able to land almost anywhere you want, gives you extra freedom when flying.

Requirements For Float Buoyancy

To make sure that the plane will float, you must meet certain requirements, including certain weights and dimensions. 

These dimensions ensure that the plane will float if it hits the water (see also “How Many Dimensions Does A Plane Have?“). A seaplane should have 80% buoyancy to support its weight in fresh water. 

A float plane needs to withstand capsizing in calmer waters. For this reason, you can often see seaplanes that contain 6 compartments.

This is to reduce the flooding risk of the aircraft.

Get A Seaplane Rating In A Couple Of Days

If you already have a pilot’s license, then adding your seaplane rating may only take a couple of days.

Most experienced pilots only need 5 hours of additional flight training, and a final flight check ride.

How Do You Know Where The Wind Comes From?

One thing that makes a seaplane different from other airplanes is that landing on the water means you need to read your wind directions, usually from the water surface.

Carefully observe the waves and check where the wind comes from. White tips will begin to show on the waves when the wind is around 10 to 12 knots.

Beware Of Glassy Water

Although the smooth surface of a lake or a river might look like it’s perfect for flying, glassy water is one of the most dangerous surfaces to land on.

As the water reflects so much, it’s difficult for seaplane pilots to tell their height above the water surface.

For glassy water landings, pilots choose two points: one where they start to go down and a final visual reference. This could be the shoreline or a tree or anything else where they want to land.

Between these two points, he will have to slowly bring the plane down with all its accompanying lower altitude and reduced power settings.

Where Can I Learn How To Fly A Seaplane?

There are many places where you can learn how to fly a seaplane. You can take lessons at specific seaplane schools or with a licensed private instructor.

Your local flying school may be able to advise where you can get some seaplane training.

The following organizations may also be able to point you in the right direction of where to get your seaplane training done: 

  • FAA – Federal Aviation Administration
  • USCG – United States Coast Guard
  • NTSB – National Transportation Safety Board
  • ASELP – Air Sports Education & Licensing Program


Flying a seaplane is not so very different from flying a standard lightweight airplane. 

It requires similar skill and experience to safely operate a seaplane. In addition, seaplanes offer you the opportunity to explore new areas in aviation.

An added benefit is that wherever you are when flying a seaplane, you are bound to be near water which often gives you stunning views, and the chance to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Jacob Stern
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