In the history of aviation there have been great inventions that have left their mark over time which little by little have allowed other scientists and engineers to have managed to build different types of airplanes with their own characteristics: A very clear example can be seen in the seaplane , a type of means of air transport that has the great capacity to take off and land on a certain surface of water.

What is a seaplane?

hydroplane is a kind of airplane that has the great ability to land on water , this is why instead of having wheels on its landing gear it has floats that help it stay stable on the surface.

  • Definition
  • What is a seaplane for?
  • Characteristics
  • Story
  • Who invented it
  • Seaplane types
  • Parties
  • Materials
  • How a seaplane works
  • Maintenance
  • What is the largest in the world
  • Other examples


Seaplanes are a type of aircraft that have a main peculiarity that makes them different from other types of air transport . This feature includes the ability you have to be able to make a safe landing and effective on surfaces of water which can be rivers, lakes or seas.


What is a seaplane for?

At present, many civilian types have a seaplane version that is why this type of transport is lighter and could even benefit from having access to areas that are considered more remote . It has been widely used in those missions whose main objective is to put out forest fires in different countries. They also have the great ability to be part of maritime salvage organizations as it is ideal for searching and is also an important source of fuel savings as they are more efficient .


Some of the most representative characteristics that can be observed in a seaplane are the following:

  • It can take off and land on a water surface .
  • Today they are part of commercial air traffic .
  • When the hydroplane can also operate in a conventional type of aerodrome , it is known by the name of amphibious aircraft .
  • They are machines that have the advantage of being friendlier with the environment because they do not need large infrastructures to be able to land and take off.


The first seaplane to be built was in charge of Henri Fabre , in 1910 . In previous years, different types of tests had been done but they had failed. Fabre called his invention ” airplane marin “. This first hydroplane was a type of monoplane that had floats and that was also provided with a rotary engine , it also had a sail that was fixed on the wing very similar to a yacht sail. It was piloted only by one person , it measured 8.5 meters in length, had a wingspan of 14 meters , a wing surfacethat reached 17 square meters and weighed 380 kg.

After making that invention, Fabre devoted himself entirely to building floats for other people who wanted to use their planes in the water. In October 1910 , the Canard voisin became the first seaplane to fly over the Seine River in Paris and it was also the first seaplane to be used militarily on the French aircraft carrier La Fundre. The credit for successfully flying a meeting went to the American Glen H. Curtiss and it was he who convinced the navy of the excellent profits of the ship.

The first commercial flight using a seaplane was in the hands of Tony Janes and the flight was made to carry cargo and passengers between the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa. In this way it began to be used as a means of transport in the world. By 1917 , the construction of the first large-scale seaplanes had begun. Seaplanes were able to develop with greater force during the 20s and 30s of the 20th century and for a time they were the fastest in the world.

Who invented it

The invention of the seaplane is attributed to Henri Fabre.

Seaplane types

There are two types of seaplanes:

  • Float seaplane : they are also known by the name of hydro floats and instead of having a landing gear they have floats therefore they do not touch the water with their fuselage.
  • Canoe seaplanes : they are also known as hydrofoils and the buoyancy they have is provided by means of the fuselage which has a shape similar to that of a boat hull and in which the floats are smaller than the wings in order to provide greater stability.


In terms of their parts, hydroplanes have the same parts as a normal plane but in some of them there is no landing gear and instead two floats can be found . Also, depending on the type of seaplane it may have a kind of canoe instead of a fuselage . In the case of seaplanes that are used to put out fires, they also have special tanks in which the water is stored.


Its materials are the same as those used in the manufacture of conventional aircraft.

How a seaplane works

In relation to its operation, this is the same as that used for conventional airplanes but when it comes to seaplanes used in fire extinction, they have the capacity to release loads in 20 seconds which can reach 6000 liters of water. The seaplanes are placed in the water to be able to take off and take momentum on the surface of the same to later be able to rise . Once in the air, the pilot navigates smoothly. To descend, it does so on a surface of water again.


Seaplane maintenance must be carried out by mechanics and engineers specialized in the field. It is important to keep the floats in good condition and constantly check that the plane canoe does not present any type of damage.

What is the largest in the world

The largest seaplane in the world is the Chinese- made model AG600 Kunlong which has a total length of 36.9 meters and a wingspan of 38.8 meters . This seaplane has a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 tons and has the great capacity to obtain a maximum range of around 4,500 kilometers . In it, it is possible to carry a total of 50 passengers and 12,000 liters of water when it is the version that has been adapted to extinguish and contain fires. 

Other examples

Some other examples of seaplanes are mentioned below:

  • Model Shin Meiwa US-1 which managed to save more than 500 people while in service.
  • Boeing 314 “Clipper” which was the largest seaplane ever built.
  • Harbor Air Electric Seaplane – A commercial airline located in British Columbia

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