Glassy Water Landing

The setup

  • Choose a LVR as low as possible to the shoreline (crossing a high LVR like a tall tree means you will use much more water)
  • Pitch, power, and airspeed
    • Maintain the correct pitch attitude and power setting, and your airspeed and sink rate should take care of themselves
    • It is a good idea to quickly reference the VSI once you have the power and pitch attitude set to ensure you have a steady descent, but not too great of a descent
    • If your sink rate it too great, add power.  Don’t hesitate to add full power and assume a go-around pitch attitude at any point if things don’t feel right, or you have passed your abort point
  • Remember to maintain a positive climb rate on a go-around, this may sound super easy, but more than one seaplane pilot has before taken off safely from glassy water, only to fly right back into it shortly after takeoff/go-around.

Some rules of thumb

  • Best approach speed varies for each aircraft, but is typically around 10 knots above stall speed
  • Don’t approach to quickly as landing fast means A LOT of water drag and possible nosing over (it is also easier to bounce with that extra energy, extra energy on landing is rarely a good thing)
  • Close the throttle slowly and ensure the seaplane is firmly on the water before reducing power (it is easy to skip off the water and be back in the air and not know it)
  • Expect the water to “grab” more than usual and be ready with slight backpressure to maintain the appropriate planing attitude.
  • Clues you have landed are
    • Increase in drag (slight nose-down pitch)
    • Water spray sound from floats or seeing the spray
    • Feeling deceleration force
  • Each aircraft has its limits, but 100-200fpm works for most aircraft (consult your CFI to know what your seaplane can really handle)
  • Expect to use a lot of lake, and ALWAYS HAVE AN ABORT POINT
  • Ensure a go-around is possible on the water you have chosen
  • You can always wait for wind or better conditions and land somewhere else
  • Poweroff glassy water landings should be avoided (obviously you can’t pick where and when your engine will quit, so make good decisions to control the variables you are able to manage to ensure you can avoid having to perform this).