When using a runway, many factors are taken into account to choose the landing direction.

A lake can be used in almost any direction by seaplanes. I imagine wind is prevalent, but I guess other elements such as waves, form of the body of water surface, water flow should also be taken into account.

What are the elements taken into account when choosing the direction to land a seaplane onto a body of water, and how do thoses elements influence the direction?

  • $\begingroup$ If you're on a river, it's generally considered good practice to operate with the current rather than against the current unless conditions dictate otherwise. On a river there tend to be lots of obstacles: power lines, bridges, river bends, rapids, boaters, etc. Another major factor is where on the river bank that you're leaving from or where you're wanting to dock or beach. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 2:40

1 Answer 1


Here is a nice little article on it. But in general the small waves on the water will curl with the wind and can even be used as a wind indicator. For calm water you can obviously chose your direction based largely on wind (but if the water is very calm there is likely little wind). Obstructions will play into choosing direction as well and it is advised to overfly the intended landing area before touching down. As for rough water landings the article states

It is impractical to describe an ideal rough water procedure because of the varying conditions of the surface. In most instances, though, the approach is made the same as for any other water landing. It may be better however, to level off just above the water surface and increase the power sufficiently to maintain a rather flat attitude until conditions appear more acceptable

Your elements are (in no particular order)

  • Obstacles
  • Wind
  • Landing Area (you need enough distance to actually land same as a paved strip)
  • Possible Rough Conditions

You must also keep in mind where you can actually land a seaplane. Not every body of water is legal to land a sea plane in (emergencies aside). You may want to check out this recently released book on arguable the first guy that flew a seaplane around the world.

  • $\begingroup$ Your last bit would be a good addition on this question. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 15:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In addition to that article you might want to check out the FAA's "Seaplane Handbook" - Chapters 4 (Takeoffs) and 6 (Landings) would be particularly relevant. $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 16:07

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