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Want To Land On Water? Here Are 8 Things You Should Know About Flying Seaplanes.

The best of both worlds: boating and flying. Here are 8 facts you should know about flying seaplanes.

Swayne Martin

1) Fun Fact: Have You Ever Noticed A Tilted Anchor On Your Sectional Chart?

Locations commonly used for seaplane operations are marked with an anchor on your sectional chart, which is oddly sometimes titled sideways. The tilt is designed to show the preferred landing and takeoff lane direction, sort of like a runway orientation.


2) Get Your Seaplane Rating In 2 Days

You can add a seaplane rating onto your certificate in as little as 2 days. Usually, you'll fly around 5 hours of training flights followed by a checkride. I recently got my rating and I promise it's one of the coolest experiences you can have as a pilot. Here's how it works...

3) With No Windsock, How Can You Tell Where The Wind Is Coming From?

You'll find a glassy band of water on the upwind side of a lake. Waves generally form downwind of this, and increase in size further to the downwind side of a lake. At 6-10 knots, you'll begin to see wind streaks on the lake parallel to the wind. Whitecaps begin at 10-12 knots of wind.

University of Florida

4) Glassy Water Landings Can Be Deadly

You may look at the glassy surface of a lake and think it must be perfect for flying a seaplane into. However, glassy water landings are actually the most dangerous maneuver you'll fly as a seaplane pilot. With no visual depth perception, it can be difficult to tell your height above the water.

Seaplane pilots pick an aiming point and a last visual reference, sometimes the shoreline. Between the aiming point and last visual reference, you must establish yourself in a landing attitude, configuration, and specific power setting for descent. Then you wait for touching down on the water, always maintaining the same attitude and power setting. You don't use your vertical speed indicator (VSI), because it's a lag-instrument and only shows trends initially. If you're not established in your configuration by the last visual reference, you go-around.

Simon Blakesley /

5) You Can Sail A Seaplane

When sitting idle in the water, seaplanes weathervane into the wind nose-first. Your rudder and ailerons can be used as a miniature sail on the water in windy conditions to gently float backward in the direction you choose.

Jack Brown's Seaplane Base

6) Seaplane Base Beacon

If you ever see a rotating white and yellow beacon (as opposed to white and green), it's a seaplane port. If the anchor on your sectional has a star on top, you should find a functional beacon. There aren't many of these around, but you might get lucky and spot one...


7) Float Buoyancy Requirements

CFR Part 23.2310 requires seaplane floats to provide buoyancy of 80% in excess of the buoyancy required to support the maximum weight of the airplane in fresh water. That's 180% of the seaplane's max gross weight.

Plus, in the event float hull flooding, the seaplane must be able to withstand capsizing in calm water. That's why you'll find most seaplanes with 6 compartments to mitigate flooding risk.

Swayne Martin

8) Where Can You Land?

In the USA, local laws and ordinances determine if you can land a seaplane in any given body of water. In most states, you can land almost anywhere. The "Water Landing Directory" published by the Seaplane Pilot's Association gives you tips and restrictions for some of the most popular spots you'll fly into. Removing the restriction of paved runways adds next-level freedom into your flying.

Jason Pineau

There's a lot more to float flying than just this, and it's easily one of the coolest ratings you can add onto your pilot certificate. Click here to learn more about how to get your rating.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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