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Learning to Fly a Seaplane: A Personal Reflection (Part 3)
In the world of aviation, enthusiasts are often seen discussing aircraft that land on concrete runways rather than those that land over water. However, living in a state that has a large coastline, as well as needing to obtain my rating for my job, I wanted to share my story highlighting the process and experience of learning to fly a seaplane. This is part three of the experience, to read part one click here and click here for part two.
After a delicious lunch at the FBO it was back into the Cub and back into the water. Our afternoon flight built on the morning flight. We continued to practice the performance takeoffs and landings in the water, as well as the normal takeoffs and landings. As the Florida afternoon went on I felt my confidence in the water grow.
As part of transitioning to the water, I was taught how to dock, beach, and sail the aircraft. Docking is similar to my experience docking a boat. The only challenge would be docking single pilot and without a dockhand. It would require a lot of focus and precision to dock in those conditions.
Beaching the aircraft is relatively simple. The floats on the aircraft are designed to be beached on a hard surface. My instructor even told me the floats could be landed on asphalt without needing to be replaced. Both docking and beaching are made easier with the engine off and allowing the aircraft to drift into parking location.
After a couple hours hopping lakes, and practice, we turned in for the day. After a quick debrief of the days flying and brief for the next day, my instructor left me with some suggestions for study overnight.
The next day started much like the first, bright and early. My day would be half spent with my instructor and the other half on my checkride. My instructor quickly briefed for our morning flight and we were soon in the water.
Our flight was spent focusing on reviewing the lessons from the previous day. Although we reviewed all the takeoffs and landings, as well as maneuvering the aircraft on the water, a focus was placed on the challenging glassy water takeoffs and landings. Similar to the day before, I felt my confidence grow as the morning progressed.
After about two hours of flying, my instructor said that I was ready. We returned to Lake Jessie, where I was told my checkride would be within 30 minutes. I quickly crammed through the packet from ground school; before I knew it Mr. Brown was ready for me.
I went into his office where we started the oral exam. Much like my private, instrument, and commercial checkrides, this checkride was scenario based. The questions were all straight-forward, and based on the ground school information.
After passing through the oral exam, we moved onto the flight portion. The flight portion went very similarly to my previous flights. We took off from Lake Jessie and went to a nearby lake. The flight portion was straightforward, with Mr. Brown only needing to see one of each maneuver.
I performed a smooth normal landing on the lake, where Mr. Brown had me step taxi downwind to take back off. After a simulated rough water takeoff, we moved onto another lake to not disturb the neighbors. A simulated rough water landing followed, and a simulated docking on a wooden dock.
We took off again, this time simulating a glassy water takeoff, and moved on to another lake. This time my landing would be the most challenging as it was the glassy water landing. I set up for my landing, passed over my last visual reference, and gently touched down in the water.
We took back off again and headed home to Lake Jessie. After beaching the aircraft back at the seaplane base, Mr. Brown congratulated me on good flight. We went back into his office and debriefed the checkride.
The main theme from this course was safety; on the checkride Mr. Brown wasn’t expecting me to be proficient in the aircraft. He was mainly checking that I could safely operate on the water, as well as make good aeronautical decisions. After our debrief, he shook my hand and said congratulations. I had my seaplane rating.
We went back to the main office where my temporary certificate was printed out. I again shook Mr. Brown’s hand, thanking him for the experience.
Overall my experience earning my seaplane rating was a memorable one. Learning to fly on floats, and gaining experience using stick and rudder will make any pilot better. For a two day course, I learned valuable lessons that will stick with me for a lifetime.
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