This probably sounds like a silly question, but I was watching floatplanes land on Lake Union, Seattle, and it got me wondering whether a plane that touches down onto water is still talked about as "landing" in aviation parlance.

Is it?

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    $\begingroup$ Well sure, but you don't call driving home "bedding" since you end up in bed at the end of the day. $\endgroup$ May 27, 2016 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ It's a watering. $\endgroup$ May 27, 2016 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ I think if you said "watering" you'd get some funny looks and/or some good laughs. $\endgroup$ May 27, 2016 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ I propose "Splashdown" $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    May 28, 2016 at 2:23
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @JanDvorak "Get on the plane? F*** you. I'm getting IN the plane." -George Carlin $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    May 28, 2016 at 19:18

3 Answers 3


Yes. One 'official' example is from the FAA's test standards for land and seaplanes, which includes these tasks for seaplanes:

Task H: Glassy Water Approach and Landing
Task J: Rough Water Approach and Landing

The FAA's Seaplane, Skiplane, and Float/Ski Equipped Helicopter Operations Handbook also uses it; Chapter 6 is called "Seaplane Operations - Landings".

Interestingly, the word "landing" itself isn't defined in the FAA's glossary or in 14 CFR 1.1 (the US air regulations general definitions). Presumably it's considered to be too 'obvious' to require a definition.

  • $\begingroup$ Haha, related to the landing definition: Can a “crash landing” be used for FAR 61.57 currency? $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    May 27, 2016 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ In more logical languages than English, no. In German it is "wassern" while landing on land is "landen". $\endgroup$ May 27, 2016 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterKämpf Yes, Spanish is another one: aterrizar vs. amerizar. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 27, 2016 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ English doesn't stand alone though. Dutch also doesn't have a specific word for it and merely calls it a "landing" (or "noodlanding" for "emergency landing", which still isn't limited to water). And in German, while as mentioned the word wassern/Wasserung does exist, the use of the more general word landen/Landung would not be wrong, a Wasserung is a specific type of Landung. $\endgroup$
    – hvd
    May 27, 2016 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ So, you land a seaplane to get from air to water, and then you land it again when you sail it to a dock? $\endgroup$ May 28, 2016 at 18:32

Not in French it isn't. French for landing is 'aterrir' which roughly translates to 'return to the land'. Using this verb for a sea 'landing' would sound silly to them so they use 'amerrir' which means 'return to the sea' (Mer being French for sea, terre is French for ground). A landing in the Moon would be 'alunir'.

This interesting fact was mentioned by the instructor on my French audio course.

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    $\begingroup$ A landing on any planet or satellite, or on an asteroid, will still be un atterrissage (a landing), as atterrir (to land) is not returning to Earth (la Terre), but to the ground (le sol). The neologisms alunissage and alunir (Moon landing, to land on the Moon), which are frequently used, have been in fact rejected by the Académie française. That matches with English use, as in the Eagle has landed (Apollo 11). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    May 28, 2016 at 15:26

No. ICAO defines a landing like this:

From the beginning of the landing flare until aircraft exits the landing runway, comes to a stop on the runway, or when power is applied for takeoff in the case of a touch-and-go landing.


And a runway like this:

A defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and take-off of aircraft


Wikipedia suggests that "landing" on water is referred to as "alighting"

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    $\begingroup$ Does ICAO define "alighting"? $\endgroup$ May 27, 2016 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ Not as far as I can tell. However, the following document contains this definition: "water alighting area: means a suitable stretch of water for the landing or taking-off of a float plane under specific conditions" - icao.int/APAC/Meetings/2016%20WASWG2/… $\endgroup$ May 27, 2016 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ Haha, by definition they exclude "landing" on water, but then specifically refer to landing when talking about what a float plane does on water? Classic! $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    May 28, 2016 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed hehe .. not very well thought through $\endgroup$ May 28, 2016 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ So what is it called when you deliberately and controlledly put an airplane on solid ground after a flight in the same way that you would land, but you don't do it on a runway? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Jul 31, 2023 at 6:06

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