What are the rules with regards to landing a float plane on a body of water? Can I land anywhere (non-emergency, obviously) that would also accommodate the take-off? If not, how do I determine which bodies of water would allow it and which would not?

  • Are you asking legally, or technically? If you're asking for regulations, you should specify which jurisdiction. – falstro Dec 19 '13 at 18:41
  • 2
    I'm asking about the regulations (legally) in the United States. Whether FAA or local. I realize there are considerations to see if you can do it technically (trees on the end, more length to take-off then land, wind, etc.) I'm just wondering if you would get in trouble from the authorities. – Canuk Dec 19 '13 at 18:50
  • Ok, then I would suggest adding the faa tag, as I'm pretty sure the lba will cut your ears of if you land anywhere except a designated airfield... :) – falstro Dec 19 '13 at 18:51
  • What does ases mean here? – Danny Beckett Apr 18 '14 at 6:15
  • 1
    ASES = Airplane Single-Engine Sea. The FAA divides stuff into categories and classes. In this case, the Category is Airplane, then the class is Single-Engine Sea. I've seen it used to shorthand refer to "floatplane"-related stuff. Contrasted with ASEL (airplane single-engine land) for "regular" airplane (private and single-engine commercial "land planes"). – Canuk Apr 24 '14 at 7:16
up vote 15 down vote accepted

It really depends on the state, though you can't land in National Parks (the National Park Service regulates that, not the FAA). The FAA doesn't care where you land it, though if you ball it up due to poor choice of landing area then they'll have something to say.

Some states don't really care where you land (like Oregon), others don't let you land anywhere (like New Jersey). You should contact your state and get the regulations from them.

  • 1
    Any idea generally which state agency you would ask? – Canuk Dec 19 '13 at 18:52
  • 1
    I'd start with the state department of transportation. If they have a specific aviation department then they'll direct you to it. – Ralgha Dec 19 '13 at 19:00
  • 3
    The AIM specifically says request and it also says it's the park/forest service that is making the request. It's very rare that that phraseology is used. Requests are not regulatory and never have been. I'm aware of may certificate actions referring to the AIM, I'm not aware of a single one that refers to part of the AIM that is including a request from a separate government entity. In fact, I'm not aware of any legal cases of any nature that are based on a statement that "requests" unless accompanied by stronger language. – Ralgha Dec 19 '13 at 21:11
  • 2
    I was soo confused what "USPS" was referring to - I wasn't sure what the Postal Service was doing renting ice cream stands. For the record, I can't find an official abbreviation but most of the time it seems to be called U.S. National Park Service – SSumner May 13 '14 at 0:41
  • 2
    @SSumner it seems to be NPS, a la their website and stuff on info page: nps.gov/aboutus – Nick T Mar 28 '16 at 21:40

This is handled on jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis. While sea plane "bases" are marked on the sectional, this only means that the location has been registered with the FAA.

The air space over the water is handled federally. The water itself is handled locally. When the aircraft is on the water, it is generally considered a boat under the law, except where a jurisdiction has chosen to single out sea planes.

Unfortunately many jurisdictions have done just that. Any little mud puddle can potentially be banned for sea plane operations by the local community.

There is an association of sea plane pilots who involve themselves in advocacy to keep waters available. They publish some useful materials on this subject.

If you plan on going for your sea plane endorsement, your instructor will give you the pertinent details. If you would like to fly locally, you will need to check out your local codes. If operations have not yet been banned, it would be sensible to join the association, and take an active role in keeping local waters open to sea planes in your area.

  • On the water, considered a boat, there may be local speed limits which you have to take into consideration as well. – ghellquist Jun 19 at 19:56

States with coastlines often manage this through a "port authority" association, like Massachuesetts.

Sometimes it is a joint association, like in the case of the PA-NY-NJ Port Authority.

Drawing on some personal observations, many float-plane sites around Seattle are marked on maps.

Lake Union

But I've also observed float planes taking off and landing at sites that are not appropriately marked on the map.

I cannot cite regulations, but my eyeballs suggest that any safe place may be legally okay.

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.