Seaplane Flight Training – Just Add Water


Many pilots pursue a seaplane rating as an add-on to their private pilot license or commercial pilot license and many would agree, it’s a bucket list item for nearly every pilot out there. Earlier this year, I checked that item off of my list and completed two days and seven hours of seaplane flying, along with the most interesting checkride in my career.

I flew down to Florida the night before my first seaplane flight lesson and glanced down at the Florida landscape from the window seat of a 737, wondering:

How do you set up to land on a lake?

I wonder if there are alligators in that lake?

What if I accidentally fall in the water during preflight?

What if I fall in the water during preflight and there’s an alligator in the water near me?

I am guilty of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, alligators included.

The next morning, I climbed into the J3 Cub on floats where I sat behind my instructor. He explained that all I had to work with was my sight picture out of the aircraft, an altimeter (over his left shoulder) and a tachometer (over his right shoulder), all from the back seat of the J3, no less. GPS? Non-existent. Radios? Over the next two days, we never talked to ATC or any other pilots, for that matter.

Seaplane Training

Two long days and six hours of flying later I was ready for my check ride. My examiner walked out in board shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops as I did my pre-flight check and said, “Be sure to stay away from the cove, there’s a baby alligator laying in the weeds and we don’t know where mom is!” All of a sudden the image of me falling off of the airplane’s float and into the water next to an alligator was becoming a reality.

We climbed into the J3 Cub, talked through a few things and we taxied out onto the lake. During departure my examiner said, “Hey, favor the left side of the lake, I think I see that momma alligator!” As we climbed out he pointed out the right side of the airplane, “Look at her, she must be 8-feet long!” Fittingly, she was no further than 15 feet from the seaplane base where I was doing my preflight.

About 20 minutes into my flight, we landed on the middle of a large lake where a couple of fishing boats hugged the shoreline. As we idle taxied for a moment, the examiner took the airplane, applied power and exclaimed, “My airplane!” 30 seconds later he reduced power. “Did you see that? We almost got stung by a swarm of bees off of our right wing!” The J3 Cub can be flown with the door and window open and that was exactly what we had done on that perfectly sunny, 80-degree day. “We both almost went for a swim,” he said.

VIRB Seaplane rating

Just as my seaplane check ride was starting to feel more like a trip to the zoo, the examiner said, “Let’s take her back, you did great.”

Seaplane flying gives you a sense of freedom that does not compare to any other type of flying and flying is truly the epitome of freedom. For any pilot, I strongly recommend it. It’s not easy and it will challenge you, but it’s worth it every time those floats kiss the water on a sunny 80-degree day.

And, in case any of you a curious, alligator mating season in Florida begins in April and runs through May in Florida and per a local pilot, “they’re rather aggressive during mating season.”

Good to know.

The post Seaplane Flight Training – Just Add Water appeared first on Garmin Blog.

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