Emergency Maneuvers/Actions

Emergency Maneuvers/Actions

Seaplane flying brings with it some risk. There are several emergency maneuvers or actions every pilot should know. However, the more prepared the pilot, the less risk involved. Some specific situations are addressed below.

Submerged Float: If a float submerges during takeoff or landing, reduce power and turn towards the submerged float. The turn should reduce the speed of the float.

Night Landings: Night water landing should only be considered in an emergency; even then a lighted land runway is probably a better option. Floatplanes can safely land on pavement and grass if necessary. If a night landing needs to be conducted, the glassy water technique should be used.

Engine Out: Plan for potential engine failure at any time, but specifically during takeoff. Should the engine fail on takeoff, land straight ahead. Follow the aircraft’s specific procedures for power off landings. In general, engine out procedures require more speed during the descent to allow for an adequate flare.

Crash/Water Damage: All passengers should wear a manually inflatable life jacket during float operations. The life jacket should not be inflated until outside of the aircraft. In the event of a crash, the aircraft is likely to become inverted in the water, which can be disorienting. Remember that air bubbles will always rise to the surface. Should the aircraft be inverted or submerged, it is best to leave the aircraft until properly trained personnel are available. Many aircraft have been damaged during the recovery efforts, such as lifting it out of the water too fast without letting the water drain from the aircraft. Also, once removed from the water, several procedures must be performed to prevent further water damage, such as cleaning and drying avionics, and addressing water in the engine. This section is not intended to address how to do these items but remind the pilot that getting the airplane out of the water should be done appropriately. Whatever is needed to save lives would take priority over any recovery efforts of the aircraft.

Emergency Egress: Should the aircraft become submerged; it will likely be upside down. As such, it can be very disorienting for the occupants. The seatbelt should not be release until the occupant has determined the proper escape path. The seatbelt can then be released, and the occupant can swim out. If released right way, the occupant may be floating in the cabin and have difficulty determining the escape path. All pilots are encouraged to take egress training.

Disabled Aircraft: Before operating on a body of water, it is good planning to know who to contact should the aircraft become disabled. Know the number or frequency of a local marina or facility to tow the seaplane back to shore.

Amphibious Specific Items: The main concerns specific to amphibious aircraft are any issues with the landing gear. The emergency gear operation procedures of the floats must be known. It is a good idea to practice these before they are needed. Such practice could be done while the plane is in the water, or during maintenance when it is supported on blocks. If there are any questions of the gear status, DO NOT land on the water. If not confident that the landing gear is fully retracted, land on a towered runway that could provide emergency services if needed. Refer to the aircraft’s flight manual for specific procedures in the case of an emergency.


Capsize: To overturn.

Egress: To exit.


What is the benefit of additional speed in an emergency descent? The speed is the energy that allows a flare.

If a float starts to submerge, what are the pilot’s actions? Immediately slow down and turn towards the submerging float. The reduction in speed and the turn may prevent the float from submerging completely or may lessen the impact of the likely waterloop.

What options are available if caught in a seaplane with straight floats after dark? The primary option is to find a lighted runway to land. Landing on a runway should cause only minimal damage to the floats. Attempting a night landing on the water can be disastrous as it is difficult to determine the surface. If a night landing on the water is attempted, such as in an emergency, the glassy water landing technique should be used.

What are some additional precautions when landing on water at night? Trick question. With few exceptions, avoid landing on water at night in all but emergency situations. If a night landing on the water is attempted, such as in an emergency, the glassy water landing technique should be used.

When should seatbelts be released after a water accident? The seatbelts should be related have the occupant has oriented themselves to the appropriate escape path.

What can be done if after landing the water rudders do not extend? Cycle the rudders to see if weeds are blocking the mechanism. Look and see if there are any debris or problems that could be removed. If they are not working completely, use a combination of taxiing with power and sailing to get to the desired location.

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