Seaplane Basics

Let’s cover some basics about seaplanes.

There are two types, flying boats or hull planes, and seaplanes on floats (pontoons) often called float planes.


turbine alaskan beaver on floats
This is a traditional “float plane” that is also considered an “amphibian” since it has retractable landing gear.


Searey float plane
This is a “flying boat” or hull seaplane. It is also an amphibian since it has retractable wheels for landing on hard surfaces.


Just like any boat, there are specific names for the parts of our floats or hull, whichever you are flying.  The terms we want to remember are:

  • Keel
  • Sister Keelson
  • Deck
  • Chine
  • Cleat
  • Bumper
  • Bow
  • Stern
  • Step
  • Skeg
  • Bulkheads
  • Spray Rail

The video above covers each of those parts, as well as the diagram below.

float plane pontoon parts labeled

Seaplane Pneumonics

Here’s a list of a few memory checklists that can help with seaplane operations.  Different “checklists” work for different airplanes, and these are just general ones you can discuss with your flight instructor about possibly using in your seaplane.

  • F – Flaps
  • C – Carb Heat
  • A – Area / Attitude
  • R – Water Rudders
  • S – Safety Belts / Stick Back


  • W – Wind
  • O – Obstacles on water
  • O – Obstacles off water
  • D – Depth of water
  • S – Size of landing area