Glassy Water Takeoff/Landing

Glassy Water Takeoff/Landing

Glassy water occurs when there is little to no wind. During takeoff, the adhesion of the water to the floats increases the drag making it more difficult to takeoff and requiring special techniques, which are outlined below. In addition, the smooth water also makes it extremely difficult to see the aircraft’s altitude or height above the water.

Glassy Water Takeoff:

With glassy water, the water is difficult to reference after becoming airborne. As such, there are a couple of items to consider right after leaving the water.

  • Ensure a positive rate of climb. A positive rate of climb minimizes the likelihood of inadvertently descending and contacting the water.
  • Avoid turns during and after takeoff. Avoiding turns prevents a wingtip from inadvertently contacting the water.

As smoother water creates more water drag due to the high surface tension of the water, the one float takeoff is a common technique to lessen this friction. Several key points of this technique are outlined below.

  • In most cases, the right float should be lifted out of the water first. Lifting the right float works in conjunction with the torque produced by the engine.
  • Given that it is glassy water, there is likely no wind. However, if there was a right crosswind, the left or downwind float could be picked up first. This procedure will allow the airplane to crab into the wind upon liftoff. Picking up the left float is slightly more difficult as doing so works against the torque of the engine.
  • If room is available, the airplane should be kept coordinated after a wing is lifted. This process reduces drag but puts the aircraft into a slight turn. If room is not available, the rudder must be used to keep the takeoff run straight, which increases the drag as the aircraft is in a side slip.

seaplane - takeoff and landing - glassy water takeoff

The curved flight path does not create as much drag as the cross-controlled method. However, the curved flight path takes additional room, so it is not feasible in narrow channels.

Instead of conducting a one float takeoff, the plane can be taxied in circles to create disturbances on the water, artificially reducing the amount of glassy water and allowing a normal takeoff.

Glassy Water Landing:

Like the takeoff, landing on glassy water requires some special techniques. These techniques are also used during hazy or overcast days. The primary difficulty is inability of the pilot to properly assess the aircraft’s height above the water. As such, the techniques outlined below are used. The pilot should:

  • Identify the last known visual reference point and set the pitch attitude. This should be accomplished at approximately 150-200 feet AGL.
  • Establish proper pitch attitude and maintain it until water contact.
  • Descend no more than 150 feet per minute.
  • Remember: Pitch, Power, and Patience.
  • Do not turn once leaving the last known visual reference. If turns are conducted, there is a high likelihood of touching a wingtip to the water, which would have an unfortunate outcome. If a landing cannot be made without a turn, perform a go around.
  • Establish an obstruction free waterway of longer distance as a glassy water landing will likely use more waterway. One method is to plan to go from over land out to obstruction free water. Another option is to keep track of the time and abort the approach after a set period of time as elapsed (based on the aircraft’s speed).

seaplane - takeoff and landing - glassy water landing


Next Section – Confined Area Takeoffs and Landings