Learning To Fly Seaplanes
It’s more than learning to take off and land on water. It’s a brand-new flying experience.
For many pilots, attaining a seaplane rating is near the top of their must-do list. Runways are rendered obsolete when you’ve got a seaplane; just head for the nearest lake or river. Fortunately there are an abundance of schools worldwide that offer courses in water flying, but few are quite as unique as Italy’s Aero Club Como.“Pilots come from all over the world to learn here,” says the club’s president, Cesare Baj. Lake Como is among the most beautiful places on earth, and seaplanes have been operating there continuously since 1913." />
“We like to have students come to us with a week set aside for their seaplane rating,” Baj says. While the required training time is unique for every individual, the typical course calls for about seven hours flying time. But most pilots enjoy a leisurely pace with an extra day or two thrown in to allow for weather or extra training. Non-flying spouses or family members can take advantage of Lake Como’s myriad historical villas, castles, museums and nearby destinations like Milan and Venice. The club has dorm-style accommodations for more budget-conscious students.
Baj and his team also offer an advanced course using the Lake Renegade flying boat. You should plan on two to three weeks to work through the program, and expect to see a good amount of Italy. Students and instructors often take the airplane cross-country.
If you haven’t yet tackled flight instruction, Aero Club Como will accept you as a zero-time student and get you a pilot’s license plus a seaplane rating simultaneously. The exact amount of training time required is difficult to gauge, but plan on at least eight weeks.
Of course, seasoned seaplane pilots are welcome as well. Depending on your experience, pilots can do as little as a standard seaplane checkout before they’re good to go. The club’s fleet consists of Cessna 172s, a Super Cub, a Maule and the 250 hp Lake Renegade. Aero Club Como will even offer a free “safety pilot,”someone with plenty of float experience as well as local knowledge to make exploring the region pain-free.
Last but not least, there’s the solo floatplane flight. “At first we’ll check you out to visit other locations up and down the lake. There are a lot of great places to see,” says Baj. Lake Como is 30 miles long and features the original Bellagio, dozens of small villages (some of which date back to the time of Julius Caesar) and a variety of architectural masterpieces (including actor George Clooney’s villa). Eventually pilots can earn the ability to fly the airplane away from the lake to other destinations, including pristine lakes in the Alps (Lake Como is at the base of the Alps in northern Italy) or to nearby Milan and eventually the Mediterranean and Europe. No other seaplane training schools can offer all that.