Thursday, September 10, 2009

Seaplane Right Of Way

The question of who has the right of way on the water comes up very often in training. An airplane on the water has the same right-of-way as any power boat. Logic (and the Marine Police Regulations) dictates that the less manueverable craft should have the right-of-way.
A vessel towing anything is supposed to have ultimate right of way. Sail boats and unpowered craft come next on the food chain. Then there are power boats. The fact is that we are much less manueverable than a power boat. Most seaplanes do not have reverse. We have no neutral. We have limited steering. While on the step (high speed taxi) we have even more limitted steering and stopping options. While in the plow attitude even our vision is limitted by the nose of the plane.

This only matters if the other boaters know or recognize our challenges. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. The other critical fact is that boaters greatly outnumber seaplane pilots. They will have a much better chance of getting us kicked off the lake than we would have of getting them to recognize we are not a threat to their safety and happiness.

Part of being a good seaplane pilot is to learn to be defensive if not transparent in all our actions. Don't fly low over houses and boats. Don't fly super early in the morning. Don't do anything that might scare the other boaters. Give way whenever there may be a question. I have heard boaters worry that a seaplane might lose control and crash into their pontoon boat on landing. I have no easy way to educate thus guy, and there are thousands more like him. Our best course of action is to expose these people to as many good examples of seaplane courtesy as we can.

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