Rough Water Takeoff and Landing

very big wave

Rough water can make your day a little rough.  Here are some tips to make things easier on yourself and your seaplane.

  • Consider taking off and landing “upwind” closer to a lake shore where the water is calmer.
  • Do not operate in waves greater than specified by the float or aircraft manufacturer.  A general rule about this is half the height of the float (if the float from skeg to deck is 2′, then 12″ would be the max wave height).  Another general rule of thumb is no more than 10% of the length of the float (18′ float would be 1.8′ limit).
  • Rough water takeoffs and landings in seaplanes is comparable to a “soft-field” technique in land airplanes.
  • Rough water actually decreases water drag as it introduces some air between the float and the water.
  • Normally rotating on takeoff will create excess drag on a seaplane by digging in the heels or stern of the hull, when operating in rough water, a small rotation is generally beneficial to shorten the takeoff run (increasing AOA and get the airplane free of the water despite the small increase in drag from lowering the stern or heels).
  • Some instructors teach that a “flatter” pitch attitude for landing in rough water is better to “slice” through waves rather than let them beat against the underside of the floats.  This is something worth discussing with your instructor to learn what works best for the specific airplane you are flying.

Plow Turns