Part 6 — Advanced Exercises

Note:  The exercises in this section are not required in training for the basic seaplane rating. Rather, they are offered to enrich the training for those who are seeking to fly seaplanes commercially or who otherwise wish to expand their skills.


Essential Background Knowledge

Explain proper ramp construction. Various types of ramps i.e. cement or wooden surface and different types of trailers associated.

Explain that aircraft cannot be taxied up a cement ramp as the floats would be damaged so the trailer must be manoeuvred under the floats while the aircraft is still in the water. This trailer could be described as a "low bed" type and the aircraft weight is supported on the float keel so stress is placed on the float bottoms, eventually causing leaks.

Explain that where an aircraft can be taxied up a wooden ramp the trailer can be driven between the floats and raised hydraulically to support the aircraft's weight on the float spreader bars. The latter type is preferred because less stress is exerted on the float bottoms and the trailer is easily removed from under the aircraft and used with another aircraft.

Explain how to ramp:

  • effect of wind and current on the approach to the ramp.
  • effectiveness of the water rudders to maintain directional control.
  • proximity to other aircraft or objects.
  • correct use of throttle and aircraft controls.
  • ensuring there is enough water at the ramp.
  • use of tide tables.

Explain the importance of a way out if there is a problem.

Explain how to depart a ramp:

  • effect of current and wind
  • enough water at foot of ramp.
  • use of tide tables.
  • correct use of the throttle to prevent water damage and to overcome engine torque.
  • how to avoid damage to the water rudders as the aircraft departs the ramp.

Advice to Instructors

  • Ramping is another aspect of seaplane handling where there is usually only one way to get it right. Any current in the area is usually 90° to the lay of the ramp and the wind can be a factor. There is often a drop-off on either side of the ramp which means directional control is very important. Always have an "out" in case the ramping is misjudged. The line up to the ramping should be started a good distance away so the effect of wind, current and steerage can be observed.
  • Explain the local water depth requirement, currents and construction of the ramp.
  • On departure from the ramp it is important to note wind and current combination. The effect of engine torque when powering off the ramp should be noted and correct handling of throttle to prevent water damage and overheating.
  • Note proximity to other aircraft and objects prior to commencing.
  • Always leave a way out if a problem occurs.
  • Remember to lower water rudders at the correct time. The heels of the floats must clear the ramp and the water must be deep enough to avoid damage but they must go down soon enough to give steerage away from obstacles.
  • If ramping is assisted, ensure persons are competent to assist.

Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate how to assess the ramping situation.

Demonstrate and have the student practice ramping and departing a ramp.

Short Run Take-off

Essential Background Knowledge

Have the student review normal take-off items.

Have the student review the take-off performance charts — apply rules of thumb and recognize the many variables that will affect the figures. Most of the variables may substantially increase the published numbers.

Explain the manufacturer's approved procedures including flap settings, speeds and techniques. Emphasize the importance of following these procedures and not to be fooled into believing the "hangar" talk.

Review the environmental variables favouring good lift as well as the avoidance of obstacles and areas of downdrafts.

Review how to "read" the water.

Advice to Instructors

  • It is almost always best to use a simulated short run area — a bay or an area restricted by islands — but always leave yourself an "out".
  • Practise under varying environmental situations in the same area could go a long way to help the student learn that the variables have a huge effect.
  • Avoid using just one area for your short field practise. Allow the advanced student to size up new situations and develop judgment by assessing the variables of the area.
  • Allow the overconfident students to experiment using the many different techniques. Then in the same area use the normal technique to help them learn that "the harder you work the longer it takes" can be a very useful rule of thumb.

Air Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate how to assess the short run take-off situation.

Demonstrate and have the student practise short run take-offs.

Rough Water Take-off

Essential Background Knowledge

Have the student review normal take-off items.

Explain how to determine if the take-off area is suitable for take-off without unnecessary stress on the aircraft.

Explain how to determine the best area for take-off and to consider the option of waiting for more favourable conditions.

Review the float hull design and which float attitude best handles large waves.

Review water spray damage on the propeller and how to minimize it by timing the power application for take off.

Discuss the potential for damage on the float structure, braces, airframe, electronics, etc.

Review methods of checking the V brace (if equipped) and float fittings for integrity on the pre-flight inspection.

Advice to Instructors

  • The exercise should be covered, however, it is not necessary to do so at the maximum wave intensity. Most of the techniques employed can be effectively covered without finding conditions that test the aircraft's structural integrity. A heavy chop is likely sufficient.

Air Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate how to assess the rough water take-off situation.

Demonstrate and have the student practise rough water take-offs.

Confined Area Take-off

Essential Background Knowledge

Have the student review normal take-off

Review the procedure for step taxiing

Explain abnormal flight situations

Review how to assess environmental factors.

Advice to Instructors

  • This exercise is best covered in a simulated confined area.
  • This exercise will go a long way in improving the overall control ability of your student and will reinforce the techniques used on many other exercises.

Air Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate how to assess the confined area take-off situation.

Demonstrate and have the student practise confined area take-offs.

Rough Water Approach and Landing

Essential Background Knowledge

Explain the range of attitudes in which a safe landing can be accomplished under varying wave heights.

Explain the importance of using a power-assisted approach with half to full flap.

Explain that airspeed should be increased by half the wind speed if turbulence is indicated by "catspaws".

Explain that touchdown should be made with power on and in the step attitude or only slightly higher.

Explain that landing in a too nose-high attitude will cause the heel of the floats to touch first, slamming the forward portion into the water.

Explain that, once a few wave tops have been touched and the decision is made to complete the landing, power can be reduced and the aircraft held in the level or step attitude by gently applying forward elevator. This causes the float keels to cut the waves and increases drag on the forward float bottoms which decelerates the aircraft.

Explain the importance of avoiding landing in a nose high attitude.

Explain the importance of avoiding up elevator after the power is reduced and the aircraft is decelerating. This will cause the float bottoms to slam into the waves, pounding the aircraft unnecessarily.

Explain the importance of avoiding landing with power off. This reduces control over the sink rate and usually results in a nose high attitude at touchdown. To reject a landing with the power off would usually be as dangerous as remaining on the water.

Explain that, in an emergency such as an engine failure, increase the normal approach speed by as much as 20 knots and use this speed to help control the flare and sink rate. This should be practised on choppy water as most pilots will balloon during the flare on their first few attempts.

Explain that crosswind landings can overstress the float fitting attachment points as the initial wave contact is made on one float. Also, as the aircraft settles off the step (nose high attitude and low airspeed), the aircraft will roll with the waves and the windward wing will be picked up by the wind possibly swamping one float. The ailerons and rudder will be ineffective.

Advice to Instructors

  • Since it is often difficult to judge whether the waves are too big until after touchdown, be prepared to reject the landing after touching about 3 to 5 wave tops. This means fairly high power should be carried after first contact with the water and in some aircraft not more than half flap is used. Application of take-off power should cause the aircraft to lift off the water without delay.
  • Rough water landings are hard on the aircraft at the best of times. Not only is everything on the aircraft subjected to pounding from the waves but water spray is bound to strike the propeller to some degree. Spray will also be difficult to avoid during displacement taxiing. The fuselage of some aircraft will actually twist while turning in waves.
  • Three goals must be met for a safe and efficient rough water landing. First, touch the waves gently in the step attitude or only slightly higher. Second, be prepared and able to reject the landing after touchdown. Third, keep the shock or pounding to a minimum.
  • On any landing on rough water try to maintain an attitude that will keep pounding to a minimum. This attitude will vary depending on the size of the seaplane and the size of the floats.

Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate how to assess the rough water landing situation.

Demonstrate and have the student practise rough water approaches and landings.

Step Turns

Essential Background Knowledge

Explain the procedure for step turns.

Explain the hydrodynamic drag on the floats and the capsizing tendency caused by the centrifugal force generated during the turn.

Advice to Instructors

  • Before commencing step turns ensure the student is ready. Step turns should always be wide radius. The instructor must be alert to the student's use of rudder. The rate of turn will vary and must be controlled.
  • Emphasize that we do step turns more as a training exercise. In actual practice they are used very little.
  • Point out to the student that in training we may do 360° step turns but in actual practise they are seldom more than 180°.

Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate and have the student practice step turns.

Fuelling from barrels

Essential Background Knowledge

Explain how to prevent contamination

  • Do not use unsealed barrels unless you know when they were opened.
  • Check date on barrels.
  • Make sure that the barrels to be used are stored in a way that neither water or other residues may cover the caps.
  • Place barrels in a shaded area to prevent high variations in temperature.
  • Properly filter the fuel before use.

Instruction and Student Practice

Demonstrate and have the student practise fuelling from barrels.

Carrying External Loads

Essential Background Knowledge

Explain that external loads may only be carried on aircraft for which an airworthiness approval has been issued.

Explain that the limitations in the approved flight manual supplement must be observed.

Explain that heavy, asymmetric, external loads, such as lumber, can have a severe effect on aileron control authority.

Explain the importance of using duplicated means of securing the load to the airplane so that a single failure of a tie down or fitting does not result in the load coming loose.

Explain the effect of an external load on emergency egress in both the take-off and landing configurations.

Explain the effect of load placement on airflow. For example, placement so close behind the propeller that pressure builds up, causing "cavitation" so close to the static ports that the air data instruments are adversely affected or made unusable. Another example would be placement in the vicinity of any intake or exhaust port (cooling or heating air) such that the performance of the items is affected.

Explain, if possible, how to use appropriate external load equipment (canoe rack).

Explain the importance of arranging some loads, such as a boat or a canoe, so as to avoid significant amounts of water being trapped during a take-off run.

Point out that, in general, an outside load is not insured (if an accident occurs with such a load and it is proven that the accident is caused by this load, some insurance companies will not pay for this claim).

Explain how to secure load:

  • clear of propeller
  • respect width (between fuselage and the top of the float).
  • respect weight
  • aerodynamic shape of the load
  • use safe and adequate cables, ropes or straps

Explain impact on performance:

  • longer take-off distance due to drag
  • slower climb
  • lower cruising speed
  • pronounced yaw
  • possibility of load blanking out elevator or rudder

Advice to Instructors

  • It is the pilot's judgment and responsibility to accept or refuse the type of external load.
  • Double or triple the weight depending on volume and/or aerodynamic of the load.
  • Ensure that the load is fixed in the flight axis.
  • In the case of a freight style canoe (one end flat), place the flat end in the front to reduce the drag.
  • Check that the load does not come into contact with the water rudders or cables.
  • In flight, keep a regular eye out on the load.
  • Check engine instruments regularly (watch out for overheating).

Basic Seaplane Training Resources

Transport Canada

  1. Flight Training Manual (Catalogue No. T52-14/1994E)
  2. Flight Instructor Guide (TP 975)
  3. Human Factors in Aviation:  Basic and Advanced Handbooks Seaplanes:  A Passenger's Guide (TP 12365)
  4. Aviation Safety Letter

Transportation Safety Board

  1. Aviation Occurrence Reports

Health Canada

  1. The Pilot's Guide to Medical Human Factors

Suggested Further Reading List

  1. Marin Faure Flying a Floatplane TAB Books
  2. J.J. Frey How to Fly Floats EDO Float Corporation
  3. Dale de Remer Water Flying Concepts IAP, Inc.
  4. Pierre Rivest Bush Pilot