How to Fly a Seaplane in the Maldives

Sarah_Ackerman, Maldivian Air Taxi 8Q-MBA-3, CC BY 2.0

1. Understand the Machine — Many would assume that a sea-plane is like an ordinary plane but with the addition of floats but that is not the case. A sea-plane is an amalgamation of various machines, making it equal parts, power-boat, aero-plane and even a sail-boat once the engine is off. The floats of a seaplane are equipped with rudders so pilots can supplement their control of the craft during take-offs and landings. This means that a seaplane pilot will have to be simultaneously handling an assortment of controls. There’s also a different variety of machine called the ‘flying boat’, which is very different to a seaplane. Flying boats are usually reserved for military purposes so any sort of recreational travel, organised by entities such as Vacation Maldives is bound to feature sea-planes.

2. Do the Required Reading — It would be silly to think one can simply take a holiday to Maldives and expect to fly a seaplane. There’s a lot of homework to do before one even thinks about stepping into the cockpit. It is essential that you are aware of the ‘rules of the road’ so to speak. Each country and national jurisdiction has their own set of regulations to adhere to during any point in operating a sea-plane. You will have to read upon certain maritime laws as well, since these laws apply to all vessels navigating within national waters. It is best one carry printouts of the relevant rules with them at all times.

3. Understand Weather Conditions — Operating on water is very different from doing so on land. This is because water is a lot more susceptible to weather changes than land. Water also causes a lot more friction than land, and at uneven surface levels. Land will consistently only make contact at a certain point on the wheels, while water has the capacity to envelop parts of the float. One should also be aware of landing in calm water conditions as opposed to more windy moments. One should also know of when to not fly at all.

4. Conduct a Pre-Flight Inspection — As far as the inspection is concerned, it is very similar to that of a normal aircraft, except there’s the addition of inspecting the floats and the hull. You should always have the manufacturer’s manual/handbook with you while conducting the check. Examine how the plane is sitting in the water. Even if there is a cup full of water within a float, it can alter the plane’s centre of gravity. Be sure to thoroughly look for any leaks and seal them accordingly.

5. Taxying and Take-Off — Unlike land-based airplanes, seaplanes don’t always have designated areas of take-off, so be sure to check the take-off area for any signs of activity, ranging from swimmers to sea-creatures. Once the coast is clear, take the plane out of the idling position into the ploughing position, and gently ease into the planning position once the desired speed has been reached. Then gently take off according to the standard flight procedures.

6. Landing the Seaplane — This can be the most dangerous aspect of operating a seaplane. Water being a fluid surface, is ever-changing, and this means that no two landings will ever be the same. The most important factor to be aware of during landings is wind conditions. Keep an eye out for streaks on the water, and determine the best approach to take. Be sure to brush up on your cross-wind techniques as you know how to land against the wind.