What plane can land the slowest on the water? What plane can land on the choppiest water? Is there a way to land between the waves?

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    $\begingroup$ The answer to all 3 of those depends on the winds, in the end. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ And timing... That's how the FAA suggests you do it anyway. Are you talking about seaplanes, or crashing? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ The Grumman Albatross can operate in 4-5-foot swells. Is that the sort of thing you mean? $\endgroup$
    – Dave-CFII
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 1:08

2 Answers 2


Depends on how bad is the sea state, but the general technique for seaplanes is to land parallel to the swell, preferably on top of a wave:

When landing on a swell system with large, widely spaced crests more than four times the length of the floats, the best landing heading parallels the crests and has the most favorable headwind component. In this situation, it makes little difference whether touchdown is on top of the crest or in the trough.

If forced to land against the swell, it is recommended to land on the backside of the wave:

If crosswind limits would be exceeded by landing parallel to the swell, landing perpendicular to the swell might be the only option. Landing in closely spaced swells less than four times the length of the floats should be considered an emergency procedure only, since damage or loss of the seaplane can be expected. If the distance between crests is less than half the length of the floats, the touchdown may be smooth, since the floats will always be supported by at least two waves, but expect severe motion and forces as the seaplane slows. A downswell landing on the back of the swell is preferred.

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    $\begingroup$ Could the anonymous downvoter explain if their issue is with me or the FAA handbook's recommendations? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, now you're having issues too? It wasn't me, but there may be an additional procedure for "chop". Your answer is swell, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ It may be "into the wind" with light chop, parallel with larger swell, generally not recommended in rough seas as a wing tip may catch etc. What plane can land in the choppiest water may have a lot of opinions. It is tough to find a good answer to a vague question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertDiGiovanni yes, I breezed right through it. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 6:21

How high are the waves? Timing into the wind, proper flare and try not to capsized I reckon. Never sideways to the waves.

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    $\begingroup$ "Never sideways to the waves" I assume this means not parallel to the swell? I disagree, this is in fact the preferred direction to land a seaplane. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ I should have said never sideways into the leading edge of the waves... Apologies $\endgroup$
    – Skyhawg
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 13:30

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