It will soon be two years since I passed my private pilot license (PPL) and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. I’ve since then discovered a few people around me who share the same childhood dream, and all I can say is that while it requires some time and money, it is absolutely worth it.
Since earning my wings, I’ve continued with additional ratings such as the Night rating and VFR OTT one. But the one I recently finished certainly was the one that opened my aeronautical knowledge to a whole new topic: floatplane endorsement!
As any pilot knows, the PPL is considered a license to learn. In order to keep true with that tradition, I continued my training by adding the Night Rating (another 5 hours instrument time plus 10 hours of night time flying, including a 2 hour cross-country) as well as the VFR Over The Top (VFR OTT) that adds yet another 5 hours of instrument training.
While I am considering doing my IFR rating in a not too distant future, I had the opportunity to get my wings wet outside of the clouds by getting a floatplane endorsement with Lake Country Airways as they do offer training out of Constance Lake near Ottawa over the summer months. All I can say: What a blast!
I wasn’t sure what to expect before my first floatplane experience, but with that many lakes in Ontario, it sounded like a great and fun opportunity that is relatively quick to do. All you need is a total of 7 hours of floatplane experience with at least 5 solo take-offs and landings (also called splash & go if I understand it well). I did my rating with the Cessna 172 on floats below:
The handling of the C-172 is very similar in the air compared to a land plane. The two floats below have an effect on drag though, e.g. your glide ratio is even worst than the wheel version (getting a lot closer to the one of a brick) and your cruise speed is affected, but that’s about it. It’s in the water that things become really interesting.
First, the walk-around is quite different… try to check the wing-tip that is well out in the water! You also need to thoroughly checks for water inside the floats and make sure you aren’t taking extra weight that adds no value (e.g. not fuel or passengers & their stuff) as these floats are only mean to stay out of the water when you land. Refueling can be a little more challenging, but this really adds to the “experience”.
Taxiing is when things become really interesting especially when, like myself, you have almost no boating experience. First things first, while you are on the water, you are considered to be a boat and therefore need to get a “Pleasure Craft Operator Card”, e.g. a boater’s license. Yes, another exam / license to get, but the great news is that the complexity is at about the same level as the one of the PSTAR except that you won’t get the question pool ahead. All it takes is 3 hours of online training, a 75% success rate at the online 50 (overall very easy) question multiple-choice exam and you’re done. Really glad that it is a lot harder to get a pilot’s license as it really made me feel unsafe while on the water.
Once you have your boater’s license, you can start having fun taking off and landing on water, experiencing the full pleasure of floatplanes. I won’t go into the details of the how and the what, but I would recommend you practice your soft-field technique ahead of time (with a much stronger deceleration than the icy runway we sometimes get in the winter).
One thing that took me a little while was flying low… during my PPL, I heard over and over again from the instructors and ground school teachers that the higher you are the better. Logical when you need to find a place to land after an engine failure. But with floatplanes, you might need to get very close to the tree-tops in order to land on a small lake.
To give you an idea of how it feels, here is a small video montage of shots I took while doing my training.
I ended up flying over 5 hours on a Saturday to get my rating done before the end of the season and was really exhausted at the end. Thank you Antwan for getting me through the process and letting me loose for my solo splash & goes.
I still need to build more hours (7 hours isn’t enough in my opinion) so that I can feel comfortable renting a floatplane and discovering the beautiful lakes around the Ottawa region and beyond. The other thing I did since adding the letter S to the end of the SEL ones in the blue book is an Egress Training. More on this in another blog post.
Next step: I will most certainly get my tail-wheel endorsement and then will look at getting back to ground school for the IFR rating.