Do seaplanes need to get clearance for takeoff? Do they have ATC? How do seaplanes get clearance to takeoff?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In Porco Rosso (a very nice movie by Hayao Miyazaki) no one ever asks for a clearance... $\endgroup$
    – gboffi
    May 18, 2019 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


If the seaplane is operating from a land airport with a control tower AND a water runway, yes. Or, if the seaplane is operating from a Tower controlled water-only aerodrome, such as the one along the waterfront in Vancouver BC in Canada, yes also. Same radio procedures as any other airplane.

Otherwise, no.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi John, I would like to ask what is a water runway? Is it a runway filled with water? $\endgroup$
    – user40208
    May 18, 2019 at 3:50
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ So, in other words: same as any other airplane? At a controlled airport, they need to get clearance, and at an uncontrolled, they don't. $\endgroup$ May 18, 2019 at 8:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi John, the mists and the forests in the photo are very Vancouver-ish indeed, could you please confirm? $\endgroup$
    – gboffi
    May 18, 2019 at 20:15
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The mists, forests, mountains, pile of sulphur being loaded onto ships, Lion's Gate Bridge to the left... absolutely Vancouver. $\endgroup$
    – Jason
    May 19, 2019 at 0:05
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Yes that's the new Nav Canada tower cab on the Vancouver water front. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    May 19, 2019 at 0:16

No, seaplanes generally don't need clearance to take off unless they are operating from a controlled seaplane base. There are two types of airports controlled (towered) and uncontrolled (self announce). Seaplane bases tend to be the latter and thus do not require "clearance" to take off. At an uncontrolled field pilots announce their intentions on a common frequency and depart on their own.

Everyone with a radio in an area of sufficient coverage has access to ATC but utilizing the services may be up to the pilot or may be required depending on the airspace.

  • $\begingroup$ Re "Everyone with a radio...", not in practice. There are a lot of places (like much of the western US) where you're out of effective radio range, or where transmission is blocked by mountains &c when you're at low altitude. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    May 18, 2019 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ Controlled/uncontrolled does not necessarily equal tower/no tower. My home field technically has a tower, but the airport is uncontrolled and the airspace is class G with self-announce only. The next airport over has a tower and can be either completely uncontrolled (self-announce only) or two-way communications required but only AFIS provided. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 18, 2019 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf I have added a bit to clarify but the intent of the statement had more to do with VFR aircraft not requiring a radio and not all having one. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    May 19, 2019 at 1:58

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