Once you know what you want its time to go shopping. Good sources of info besides the net would be Trade-a-Plane (TAP), a bi-monthly publication that is the pulse of general aviation. Aero Trader's good, too, and there are lots more. Confused? e-mail Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (320) 524-2782. People in float flying usually know who's got what for sale.
If you are lucky you'll find the aircraft you want already on floats and all set to go. While you and your mechanic are giving the airplane a thorough pre-purchase inspection, don't forget to check the paperwork on the floats to be sure you are getting a legal combination. When you buy certified floats for an airplane, a paperwork packet should come with them, including installation drawings and a copy of the STC (supplemental type certificate) or something noting the TC (type certificate) which approves that installation. These papers cost money, so if you buy used floats be sure to ask for all the paperwork. Of course if you are buying non-certificated floats or aircraft, you just need to verify that the floats will fit on the aircraft and that all the attach gear is there.(see kit-built floats)
More often, unless you are buying new, what happens is that you find a good airplane in one place and track down a pair of floats somewhere else. BE CAREFUL! The aircraft you have found must have a seaplane kit in it (or available for it). A "seaplane kit", which is usually factory installed, consists of certain structural modifications required to make the aircraft legal (and safe!) as a floatplane. The contents of a seaplane kit varies from model to model; typical elements include V-braces at the windshield, lift rings on top of the fuselage, ventral fins, stainless steel cables, and corrosion proofing.
To find out if the airplane you've picked has a seaplane kit, check the manufacturer's original equipment list, call the factory with the airplane's serial number, or check the aircraft logs for modifications: Form 337 (for factory kits) or an STC (for after market kits).
Having a seaplane kit installed in an airplane you've picked out can be pricey; Check around to get an idea of prices and down-time before you buy. (Confused yet?--contact Terry at Aqua Floats for pointers.)
Another thing to check before buying is additional STC's that may or may not be compatible with floats. An example would be a Cessna 172 with an Avcon or a 215 Franklin conversion. These are compatible with some float installations but not with others. You need to carefully examine the logs to identify all the STC's applied to that airplane and then check with float manufacturers to see if the aircraft can be floated. Once you are sure you have an aircraft which can be floated legally and without major additional expense, you are ready to look at the floats.
You need to know that a certain size float may fit several different models of aircraft. For example, Aqua's model 2400 will float either the Maule or the Cessna 172. HOWEVER! Just to make things more interesting, only the floats are interchangeable. The "rigging"--all that stuff which holds the floats on the plane--is specific to each airplane. You may think this is no big deal, that stuff doesn't look like much--just a bunch of wires and struts, etc., right? You will weep bitter tears when you find out how much all that stuff will cost you--if you can find it at all! In some cases it may not even be available from the manufacturer, leaving you to hunt for parts that are very hard to find. Floats do not have logs kept on them--only as a part of an aircraft's log. The data plates on each float will give you much of what you need, and you can usually check with the manufacturer to get further details. Do look at any available paperwork and drawings to ascertain what aircraft the floats have been rigged for.
Once you are sure that the floats and rigging are compatible for your aircraft, you will want to examine everything for airworthiness. Again, since floats have no logs kept on them, there will be no written record of repairs or maintenance. It's great if you can have someone who knows floats check them out for you. Floats are tough and can take a beating, and because of this, you must look closely. You can find corrosion, canned or worn bottoms, wrong fittings or hardware, etc.
...so that's all there is to it!!
It's not all quite so aaaaaaaaa!!! as it sounds--chances are that if you are hunting a seaplane you have been working on seaplane training, and you have made contact with some web-foot people. It's easy to pick up pointers from them.
Of course buying new floats eliminates most of the steps you've been reading through. See "about Aqua certified floats" and "kit-built Aqua's--doing it your way".
Flying floats is such a unique part of aviation that it is worth the considerable investment in time, research and money. There is nothing like it in the world! Those of us who fly floats are usually eager to share our knowledge. I 'm happy to answer any questions I can for the would-be-seaplane owner. Contact me, Terry, at Aqua Floats.
If you are serious about floating around in your airplane, you should consider joining the Seaplane Pilot's Association (SPA). For a quick intro to floats, there are several good books and videos available. A great video available through EAA is "Wonderful World of Floats, A Video Guide to Seaplane Flying" Call EAA at (414)426-4800. If you have a desire to learn more, a good seaplane training manual, used at Jack Brown's Seaplane Base in Florida, is "Step Up To Floats" by John M. Rennie. Email Brown's at
email@example.com for more info.
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