Learning to fly a floatplane

Philip Greenspun's Homepage : Philip Greenspun's Homepage Discussion Forums : Aviation : One Thread
Notify me of new responses
How does the process of learning to fly a floatplane differ from a standard aircraft?

I'm assuming a private pilot license is a prerequisite, and that there's an extra
certification. Is there much point in getting an instrument rating?

-- Frank Schmitt, July 31, 2003


A float plane rating added onto a private pilot's certicate is, at a minimum, a signoff from an instructor and a checkride. In practice people usually need about 7-10 hours of dual before they get signed off. In theory you could take all of your flying lessons in a float plane and end up with a "single-engine seaplane" certificate, i.e., you'd be licensed to fly a float plane but not a land plane. In practice almost nobody does this because renting a float plane is expensive.

If you get a land plane certificate first you only need to learn the special features of float planes: docking, taxiing around in the water, getting up onto the step and then on one float for takeoff, being prepared for the anemic climb rate of an airplane that is dragging two huge floats through the air, evaluating a landing area, establishing the correct attitude for landing (esp. important if the water is glassy and therefore hard to judge one's distance from), etc.

There is no point in getting an instrument rating if your goal is to fly float planes. Many of the float planes that are used for commercial charters in Alaska don't even have basic instruments such as an attitude indicator (a.k.a. "artificial horizon").

-- Philip Greenspun, August 1, 2003

You can get your single engine sea rating up at Rangeley in Maine. It costs about $1000 and three days to add the rating to your license. I did it this summer ('03) and it was a blast. Of course, it is pretty hard to actually use the rating in the northeast, since almost no one rents sea planes.

-- Mark Spitzer, September 11, 2003

Another place to get your float license is Twitchell's Airport (http://www.mainecareers.com/seaplane.htm) in Turner, Maine. They also are one of the only remaining places that let you rent the floatplanes solo.

-- Chris Anderberg, February 8, 2004

The best place in the world to learn to fly a seaplane is where they fly them for real... in alaska!! Try Alaska Float Ratings in Moose Pass it is an experience of a life time. A bush pilot dude ranch. keep the nose up Dean

-- Dean Sibley, November 24, 2005