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Getting a Seaplane RatingThis Simple and Enjoyable Rating Will Open a World of Possibilities
By Matthew Everett
When it comes to building hours, one of the most enjoyable and easiest ratings to obtain is a seaplane rating. The rating is very popular with many types of pilot thanks to the cost-effective nature and the idyllic settings in which the traing takes place. In fact, many pilots who obtain their seaplane ratings may only fly seaplanes occasionally, if at all, once they have completed their training.
Why get a seaplane rating?
There are few other ratings that require as little as five hours of training to obtain. In fact, there are many reputable training providers that can have the average pilot flying floats in a weekend. Best of all, your relatively small time, and money, investment will open up a world of possible destinations. From scenic mountain vistas to bustling theme parks, seaplane flying has something to offer everybody.
What is a seaplane?
In essence, a seaplane is an airplane that can operate from water. The most basic seaplanes have what are known as straight floats, which are nothing more than water-tight pontoons mounted in place of gear. These aircraft operate exclusively from water, as landing on asphalt would damage the floats. In order to land on both water and land, more complex amphibious floats can be installed. Amphibious floats contain conventional landing gear mounted in the floats that, when extended, allow the aircraft to land and takeoff on land and, when retracted, on water. Aircraft equipped with either type of float are also known as float planes. While a great many seaplanes are float planes, there are several models that are built more like flying boats. These aircraft usually land directly on their hulls rather than on floats and can often include retractable gear allowing amphibious operation.
What is required to fly a seaplane?
While an additional rating is required to fly seaplanes, no additional written exams are required. At the most basic level, a seaplane rating is an add-on to an existing certificate, such as Private Pilot or Sport Pilot. Usually all that is necessary is to receive training on seaplane specific operations, like water taxiing or glassy water landings, and take a short check ride with an examiner. Add-on ratings are available for Sport Pilot through ATP certificates and single engine or multi-engine ratings. While most training centers will offer single engine ratings, training for multi-engine ratings may require significant travel in order to find a training aircraft.
No matter your piloting level, seaplane flying can add a level of variety to your flying unmatched by any other rating or certificate. After you get your rating, you'll be able to fly out to some of the most pristine wilderness and drop in on enviable fishing holes or experience true solitude previously known only to the most seasoned outdoorsmen. If a lake house is more your speed, imagine taxiing right up to the dock at your lake retreat after a brief flight; the possibilities a seaplane rating opens are endless. For more information on getting your seaplane rating, check out our Seaplane Training Resource Center.