By MIKE KINCAID
Contrary to what some of the younger pilots I examine for the Single-Engine-Sea rating might think, I didn’t begin flying when seaplanes were first introduced.
That honor goes to a Frenchman named Henri Fabre, who lifted off from the water in Southern France in 1908 (Glenn Curtiss began seaplane flights later that year in the U.S.). It was actually 70 years later that I earned my seaplane rating at Anchorage’s Lake Hood.
In those almost 37 years of seaplaning, both for work and play, I’ve come to appreciate this unique segment of aviation so much that I think it’s the best way to travel — by air or water.
Why fly seaplanes? Why would any aviator want to take to the skies from the water, then splash back down onto more water? There are some places in the world where a seaplane is the best way to get there — and it’s just plain fun!
Many pilots began flying for the adventure, the excitement, and the joy of slipping “the surly bonds of earth.” Seaplane flying takes that to the next level, combining the pleasure of flying with the pleasure of boating.
Whether it’s venturing to a remote lake to catch the big ones, to haul moose meat from a successful hunt, to drop in for a gourmet meal at a waterside lodge, or just for “splash and dashes,” this kind of aviating is hard to beat.
Seaplanes can be purchased for less than many boats, and the most beat-up 70-year-old Cub draws a crowd on a beach, even among a fleet of expensive yachts.
And there’s good news for those seeking the seaplane rating: If you are staying at the same certificate level, there is no written test!
For proficient and certified pilots, the seaplane rating averages about two hours of ground instruction, less than 10 hours of flight time, and whole lot of enjoyment. The rating also counts as a flight review.
Some budding aviators may decide seaplanes are the only way to go, and strive to operate only from the water. Earning a pilot’s certificate in a seaplane is certainly doable, so why not?
The downside is the training may take a little longer and could be more expensive. Instead of a couple of hours for the oral and flight portions, plan to dedicate considerably more time when testing for an initial certificate.
Give it a try, but beware: An innocent “splash and dash” will most likely lead to a seaplane rating. Some have even blamed me for a costing them the most expensive rating they ever had, since they ended up buying a seaplane.
Of course, they ended up with the most fun airplane they ever had as well.