Live the Dream

Earning a seaplane rating may rank as one of the most enjoyable training experiences you will have in an aircraft.

Most pilots learn to fly in a land airplane using airports with hard-surface runways. It’s an arduous months- or even years-long process involving extensive academic work, learning to communicate with air traffic control, unraveling the mysteries of arcane avionics, and mastering the many procedures needed to operate an aircraft safely and efficiently in the National Airspace System. By contrast, learning to fly a seaplane using the water as your runway is all about reconnecting with the art of airmanship, those basic stick-and-rudder aircraft control skills that probably attracted you to flying in the first place.

Good seaplane flying rewards proper coordination of ailerons, rudder and elevator.

It calls for decision-making and judgment unfamiliar to land-plane pilots such as determining wind direction on the water and thus the heading to use for landing and takeoff. A paved runway is always flat and smooth, but the condition of the water’s surface is quite another—is there enough of a breeze to stir up ripples for a normal landing or takeoff, or is it dead calm with a glassy, reflective surface that requires very special technique?

Seaplane pilots learn that each flight is unique, every takeoff and landing different, and that is what makes water flying so satisfying and enjoyable.

A seaplane rating can be accomplished in just a few days of flying—no written test required—and often for less than $2,500, making it one of the quickest and most affordable pilot ratings you can get. What could be better than flying a seaplane, a type of aircraft that very few people will ever have the joy of experiencing, in an outdoor environment that is largely free of the rules and restrictions governing conventional landplane flying? You’ll know the answer to that question after your first flight in a floatplane or flying boat.