Aircraft Review

February 2009 Issue

Fun-Size Floatplanes: Options for Most Budgets

There are deals to be had on small floatplanes. Buying no more than you need and having a scrupulous pre-buy by an expert are critical.

According to seaplane instructors, the most commonly uttered phrase by a landplane pilot following the first seaplane lesson is: "My Gawd, this is fun. Why didnít I do it sooner?" The second is often, "I want one of these things." With the hook firmly set, letís look at what the truly smitten goes through in determining how much fun he or she can afford and what kind of seaplane to buy. We strongly suggest that the first step in such a process is to join the Seaplane Pilots Association. Itís an excellent organization for those who want to have anything to do with seaplanes. Its forums contain a wealth of information on specifics of seaplane ownership and operation. What constitutes a fun seaplane? We consider fun seaplanes as ones where the idea is to fly purely for pleasure; in which the owner wants to knock around the sky and explore the waterways that are suitable and legal for seaplanes to alight; to take at least one passenger and enough stuff for a picnic or to go fishing or maybe stay overnight at a remote cabin or campsite on the shore. Fun seaplanes are for the aeronautical version of the sailorís "gunkholing." The airplane is not going to work for a living, need to haul a lot of stuff, travel great distances or handle particularly rough water or weather. We opine that fun seaplanes have but one engine that develops less than 200 HP, but we recognize that such a cutoff is arbitrary. The 145-HP Aeronca Sedan and 150- to 180-HP Piper Super Cubs and 180-HP Huskies are often serious, working seaplanes hauling cargo and people on a day-to-day basis.

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