Float Flying - Getting Started
And some tips on flying and looking after your model.
By Phil Davis (Examiner)
Flying off of water brings a new dimension to our sport. There is a mistaken belief that it is a lot harder to be a good Floatplane pilot. Actually, once you get the hang of it, flying off water is usually easier.
There are two basic types of airplanes that fly off water: Floatplanes (usually converted wheeled aircraft) and flying boats that have a boat-like hull. From a beginner’s point of view, the flying boat is easier to handle but it is usually easier to convert an existing wheeled plane. Floatplanes are discussed below.
Type–Just about anything can be made to fly off of water on floats. Basically, a flat bottom or semi-symmetrical airfoil type is best for beginners. All things being equal, it is desirable to choose an airplane with a slow stall speed. As a first effort, you might want to use your trainer, although you will probably want to increase its horsepower.
Floats–There are three ways to acquire floats. You can buy prebuilt plastic floats, you can buy kits to create built-up floats (hollow) out of balsa and Lite Ply, or you can make your own with a foam core covered with balsa or obechi sheet and finished with either film covering or fiberglass, epoxy-finishing resin and paint.
Engines–Both two-cycle and four-strokes work well. The two-cycle is lighter and may be more practical for smaller models and is less prone to damage when it eats water. The four-stroke has the low-end torque that is useful for float flying. In both cases, you will need about 20% more power than the equivalent wheeled equipment. In general, go one size bigger so your 40-powered trainer will need a 46 to get off the water.
Propeller–As a general rule, never use wooden propellers, as they will shred when hitting water.. A solid plastic propeller, such as the APC brand, works well. Dropping the pitch one size will give you much better liftoff capability.
Propeller Tip Clearance–Make sure the propeller clears the top of the floats by one inch or more.
Splash Rails–To minimize spray hitting the propellers, splash rails can be installed on the tip of the floats, from the nose back to the propeller line. The rails need only be on the inside edges.