boat hull or floats?

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The new Seawind certified design seems like an attractive airplane for getting away from it all here in New England. I'd like to hear from experienced seaplane pilots whether they prefer a boat design like the Lake or Seawind or a standard airplane on floats.

Also, if one is in an old Cessna on amphibious floats how easy is it to forget and leave the wheels down when making a water landing? This seems like an easy thing to screw up and therefore an easy way to kill oneself.

-- Philip Greenspun, July 24, 2003


Hi Philip,

I owned a Cessna 185 on straight floats for 15 years. I have 500 hrs on floats. This will not seem intuitive but it is my opinion that the Cessnas and Beavers on floats are more stable and safe than the flying boats. My former partner in the 185 bought a Lake after we sold the 185. He is a retired 747 driver with more than 5,000 hrs on floats. He told me that the insurance company required that he go to the Lake factory and get ten hours minimum with the factory pilots before they would insure him. I have seen several wrecks of Lakes around. They all had the nose bent up after hitting the water nose down after the pilot failed to recover from porpoising.

My friend let me fly the Lake. He was very concerned that I touch down at exactly the correct speed and attitude. This required using a powered approach. While I have only about four landings on the Lake, it was my opinion that the 185 allowed a much wider range of attitude and airspeed on touchdown. The 185 will carry four 200lb people, 200lbs of baggage, and six hours of fuel and will still climb at 500ft/min. It is a real workhorse. However, it does it with brute force (300 hp & 15 Gal/hr).

A note on amphibs. A friend of mine had a 185 amphibian. When he went into high lakes (5,000ft) he could only carry two people and half fuel. Going into the same lakes, I could carry four people and full fuel. Amphibs reduce the usable load and the performance (due to the additional weight and the hole in the hulls). They are nice on long cross countries, due to the fact that you can stop at any airport for fuel.


P.S. I am an EE, Com Plt, Multi, Land & Sea, Glider, Hot air Balloon, Instr., and Aerobatic Instr. I work for Creo Inc. (CTP, Prepress, Inkjet proofing, Leaf cameras) as a color scientist in the Inkjet team. I live in Vancouver, B.C. If you could juggle we might have something in common!

-- Ray Maxwell, August 30, 2003

One more note on amphibious floats... When you run your pre-landing check list you say...

"I am landing on water. Confirm gear up."


"I am landing on land. Confirm gear down."

There is no way to install a warning horn on this type of aircraft.


-- Ray Maxwell, August 30, 2003

I have a C172 on Wipaire amphib floats. Part of the float kit was their gear annunciation system, which can be purchased and installed separately as I understand it. It has both up/down lights for each gear as well as an audio voice annunciator that when you drop below a certain speed, tells you the "gear is up for water landing" or "gear is down for runway landing". Between the two, it is difficult to forget to make sure the gear is in the proper configuration. Nevertheless, insurance is much higher for the amphibs than the straight floats.

-- Kirk Lindberg, February 12, 2004

The Seawind is a gorgeous amphibian, but on the forum I read that it is very pitch sensitive, which makes sense, looking at the design. Elegant, but how well does it handle? Most of the magazine reviews have been pretty complimentary of the design, but I wonder how certification is going? The FAA has been getting tougher on handling requirements as time goes on.

Personally, I'm looking forwards to building a Progressive Aerodyne Searey in a few years. It's one of the best boat-hull amphibians out there. Unfortunately, the factory appears not to be interesting in certifying it as a Light Sport aircraft, due to liability concerns. It's one of the chief designs that people have been interested in seeing as a fly-away, not building required LSA.

-- Clifton Rybick, January 10, 2006

I've owned both a Searey and a Lake LA200. The Searey was fun on the water but had gear problems on land. My instructor had a gear collapse and skidded down the runway about 500 feet with only minor fiberglass damage to the hull. The tailwheel on the Searey was a problem. We had two ground loops. With no differential braking this was a definite problem. The Lake was fun but not forgiving. The insurance was over $10,000 on a 1978 plane. Maintenance and parts were pricey. Experienced Lake instructors are hard to find. I had the misfortune to total mine when i hit a boat wake that i didn't see at 60mph on takeoff just below flying speed. The Lake pitches down with power and nosed in.

-- Alan Mekler, September 5, 2006

Your topic reminds me of trip we made to Canada, I think we were on Nimpo lake? 4000' or so, Anyways, we were in a 1974 185F{N4661C} on Edo Flying Dolphin Amphibs, made by a company Edo bought out, they are a bit big for the 185, we were at gross with 2 people and Half fuel, We would have to run up and down the lake trying to get the plane off the water, these floats would always come up on the step easy but would not let you get over 55 and that was not enough. The only thing you could do was to get it up on one float which would require full aileron and lots of opposite rudder, once you got it up on one you could build some more speed and pull on some flaps about as hard as you could, with any luck you would then get off the water. hopefully you weren't over 5 min at full power and on a hot day you had to be aware of leaving the water and finding hot air over the trees. We always did get off, sometimes requiring 5 or 6 runs, but the 185 never failed. We would Fly up with some friends who had a lake, They had the same problem but they could not get on the the step, once they did the lake would build speed and fly every time. I recall one trip after we finally got off the water we had to watch Ron plow water in his lake, {Ron is a experienced lake Pilot and seaplane instructor}His solution was to have the passenger open the door and climb up front, once on the step then he would climb back in and shut the door and then it was all good. They say technique is everything.

Is it not as easy to leave your gear down on a water landing in a lake? I don't know about you but just the thought of what happens when you leave the gear down on water is enough to hit the gear up switch and look out the windows to check the gear everytime. Another friend of ours bought a 185 amphib and after run up he hit the gear up switch, a good habit to make sure you gear is up all the way for a water take off but not a good thing on land, as he found out. I know nothing about Seawinds nor do I have any stories.....

Rich Ziesmer

-- Richard Ziesmer, March 31, 2007