CHAPTER 6—Seaplane Operations – Landings


Whenever landing conditions are not satisfactory, execute a go-around. Potential conflicts with other aircraft, surface vessels or swimmers in the landing area, recognition of a hazard on the water, wind shear, wake turbulence, water surface conditions, mechanical failure, or an unstabilized landing approach are a few of the reasons to discontinue a landing attempt. Climb to a safe altitude while executing the go-around checklist, then evaluate the situation, and make another approach under more favorable conditions. Remember that it is often best to make a gentle climbing turn back over the water to gain altitude, rather than climbing out over a shoreline with rising terrain or noise-sensitive areas. The go-around is a normal maneuver that must be practiced and perfected like any other maneuver.


Emergency situations occurring within gliding distance of water usually present no landing difficulty. Although there is some leeway in landing attitude, it is important to select the correct type of landing for the water conditions. If the landing was due to an engine failure, an anchor and paddle are useful after the landing is completed.

Should the emergency occur over land, it is usually possible to land a floatplane with minimal damage in a smooth field. Snow covered ground is ideal if there are no obstructions. The landing should be at a slightly flatter attitude than normal, a bit fast, and directly into the wind. If engine power is available, landing with a small amount of power helps maintain the flatter attitude. Just before skidding to a stop, the tail will begin to rise, but the long front portions of the floats stop the rise and keep the seaplane from flipping over.

A night water landing should generally be considered only in an emergency. They can be extremely dangerous due to the difficulty of seeing objects in the water, judging surface conditions, and avoiding large waves or swell. If it becomes necessary to land at night in a seaplane, seriously consider landing at a lighted airport. An emergency landing can be made on a runway in seaplanes with little or no damage to the floats or hull. Touchdown is made with the keel of the floats or hull as nearly parallel to the surface as possible. After touchdown, apply full back elevator and additional power to lessen the rapid deceleration and nose-over tendency. Do not worry about getting stopped with additional power applied after touchdown. It will stop! The reason for applying power is to provide additional airflow over the elevator to help keep the tail down.

In any emergency landing on water, be as prepared as possible well before the landing. Passengers and crew should put on their flotation gear and adjust it properly. People sitting near doors should hold the liferafts or other emergency equipment in their laps, so no one will need to try to locate or pick it up in the scramble to exit the seaplane. Unlatch all the doors prior to touchdown, so they do not become jammed due to distortion of the airframe. Brief the passengers thoroughly on what to do during and after the landing. These instructions should include how to exit the seaplane even if they cannot see, how to get to the surface, and how to use any rescue aids.


After landing, lower the water rudders and complete the after-landing checklist. The flaps are usually raised after landing, both to provide better visibility and to reduce the effects of wind while taxiing. It is a good practice to remain at least 50 feet from any other vessel during the taxi.

After landing, secure the seaplane to allow safe unloading, as well as to keep winds and currents from moving it around. Knowing a few basic terms makes the following discussions easier to understand. Anchoring uses a heavy hook connected to the seaplane by a line or cable. This anchor digs into the bottom due to tension on the line, and keeps the seaplane from drifting. Mooring means to tie the seaplane to a fixed structure on the surface. The seaplane may be moored to a floating buoy, or to a pier, or to a floating raft. For this discussion, docking means securing the seaplane to a permanent structure fixed to the shore. To beach a seaplane means to pull it up onto a suitable shore surface, so that its weight is supported by relatively dry ground rather than water. Ramping is defined as using a ramp to get the seaplane out of the water and onto the shore.

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