Getting Back in the Water: Seaplane Fly-Ins That Inspire

Hanging around with the seaplane crowd can convince land pilots to make a splash.

Flying off water is just plain fun. [iStock]

Getting a seaplane rating is an appealing goal for many general aviation pilots for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s a challenge that in many ways can feel like learning to fly again. Managing the required transitions from aircraft to watercraft, to the point where you can make docking look easy, must be extremely satisfying. 

Flying off water is also just plain fun.

I have fond memories of my first floatplane ride, in an Aeronca Champ when I was in fourth grade. We flew from the Little Ferry Seaplane Base on the Hackensack River in New Jersey, which is tucked tightly under the floor of New York’s Class B airspace.

After a takeoff run under a forbidding-looking drawbridge we rose steadily above the narrow waterway lined with barges and industrial buildings. Looking back, I realize this rust-tinted backdrop was about as far as one could get from the natural beauty of seaplane hubs in remote reaches of Alaska. Still, the experience was an absolute blast, and when I finally get that rating, I will trace it back to that first flight.

Below are some of the nicer places you can go in a seaplane. Fly-ins like these are a great way to meet and share experiences with other waterborne pilots. If you don’t have your seaplane rating yet, these are the folks who will convince you to get it done. 

International Seaplane Fly-In

September 8-11
Moosehead Aero Marine Seaplane Base (52B)
Greenville Municipal Airport (3B1), Greenville, Maine

Maine is ripe with aviation culture and this event is one of its pillars. It began modestly in 1973 when most of the Greenville area’s air traffic consisted of bush pilots ferrying hunters and fishing enthusiasts into the wild. Some of those pilots decided to have a party and it‘s been growing ever since. This year’s edition includes a seaplane parade, poker run, and numerous pilot contests to be determined, based on weather. A wide range of food options includes lobster, steak, and a pig roast.

Eagle River Fly-In

September 9-11

Eagle River Union Airport (KEGV), Mapleview Resort in Conover, Wisconsin

Whether you’re landing on water (Pioneer Lake adjacent to the resort property) or on one of the airport’s asphalt runways, the Eagle River area is a gateway to great hiking, biking, fishing, and other outdoor adventures. The resort offers cabins and campsites that visitors can reserve in advance. Meals are also available through the resort but campers can bring their own provisions as well. For resort reservations, call 715-479-4600. All arriving aircraft must use 122.750 for traffic.

Indiana Seaplane Splash-In

September 23-25

Pokagon State Park, Lake James Seaplane Base (01E), Angola, Indiana

This year marks the 20th anniversary of this gathering, hosted by the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association and touted as one of the biggest and best-attended seaplane events in the Midwest. Organizers say they expect hundreds of spectators to come and watch aircraft arrive and depart on Lake James. The event is also an opportunity for visitors to get an up-close look at a variety of floatplanes and chat with their pilots. Pilots get a chance to swap stories and raise awareness  about the joys of flying off the water.

Wings and Wheels in Hammondsport

September 17

Loucks Airport (25NK), Hammondsport, New York

This fly-in is in part a tribute to pioneering aviator Glenn Curtiss, who developed and flew some of his innovative flying boat aircraft at Hammondsports’s Keuka Lake. The city’s Glenn H. Curtiss Museum has a flying replica of his 1914 America Flying Boat and many other examples of his work. The museum and many of its volunteers have organized the annual “Seaplane Homecoming” since 2003. Aircraft will be on display in Depot Park, where visitors can get a close look at the machines and speak with their pilots.This year’s event includes an antique car show.

Monster Splash Seaplane Fly-In

October 22

Wooton Park, Tavares Seaplane Base (FA1), Tavares, Florida

Tavares calls itself “America’s Seaplane City” and often makes connections between off-the-water flying and other local events. This year, the roar of seaplane engines will blend with live music during the city’s Rocktoberfest celebration. Seaplanes will arrive during the morning and a series of flying contests begins at 11 a.m. An awards ceremony follows, with music starting at 1 p.m. This is a great chance for land-based pilots to get a feel for the seaplane lifestyle, which might convince some of them to pursue a new rating.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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