(July 2011) Can light-sport aircraft be seaplanes? In short, yes. But only as long as the aircraft “intended for water operation” meets and stays within the LSA definition. And, as with land aircraft, that includes meeting a maximum takeoff weight. In the case of seaplanes, the magic number is 1,430 pounds instead of the 1,320 for single-engine land aircraft (see the March column “Why 1,320?”). So why the extra buck ten? We can trace its origin back to the FAA notice of proposed rulemaking process for the Sport Pilot/LSA rule. When deciding on the maximum takeoff weight to accommodate the seaplane structure (hull or floats), the FAA once again looked to the European microlight regulations.
“During the comment phase of the NPRM, the FAA received numerous comments requesting extra weight for seaplane LSAs,” explains David Oord, EAA’s government and advocacy specialist. “The 110-pound increase was consistent with data for the weight of floats for European microlights.”
Though the max takeoff weight wiggle room is not much, several LSA manufacturers have managed to put their single-engine land rated LSAs on floats. American Legend Aircraft Co. began offering its Legend Cub S-LSA on straight floats in 2006 and on amphibian floats in 2009. Flight Design introduced its CTLS Floatplane S-LSA this year. As for flying boats, SeaRey has been manufacturing its LSX E-LSA kit since 2009 and Icon has orders in hand for its sexy and heavily marketed A5 S-LSA, though delivery dates are not firm. And let’s not forget (how could we?) the venerable standard category J-3 Cub on floats.
For those standard category, E-LSA and amateur-built aircraft owners interested in retrofitting their land aircraft for water as an LSA, the mantra here is it’s OK as long as “it meets and stays within the LSA definition” — and the airplane’s original certification is within the LSA definition.
Now, Flying That Seaplane
Sport pilots can fly LSA intended for water operations with training and an endorsement from a seaplane-rated CFI. (Note, for amphibs with conventional gear for land use, SeaRey and Aventura, for example, you’ll have to add the tailwheel endorsement if you don’t have it already.) To get the single-engine sea class rating, you must:
• Receive a logbook endorsement from an authorized CFI certifying aeronautical knowledge and flight proficiency;
• Successfully complete a proficiency check from an authorized CFI other than the one you trained with;
• Complete FAA Form 8710-11 for the new privilege and present this application to the authorized CFI who conducted the proficiency check;
• Receive a logbook endorsement from the CFI who conducted the proficiency check certifying you are proficient in the applicable areas of operation and aeronautical knowledge and authorized for the additional category/class privilege.
Jon Brown, the head of the longtime Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base located on Lake Jessie in Winter Haven, Florida, says it takes about five hours of dual along with 1.5 hours of ground school for most pilots to receive their SES rating over a two-day period. At Brown’s, sport pilots train for their SES in Piper J3s on floats, and higher-rated pilots can choose the Maule M-7. Cost is $1,200 for the 6.5 hours of instruction, check ride and examiner’s fee.