Float planes

[Updated] The Canadian Press has an unusually detailed and accurate story about floatplane safety in Canada. Unfortunately, with the summer season arriving, we’re going to see another big spike in the fatal accident rate in Canada as the floatplanes take to the skies, simply because they normally fly without the safety net we have at certified airports: clear, monitored approach paths, known surfaces, etc. (of course, that’s the whole point of recreational floatplane flying, to taxi up to your buddy’s dock at some little lake in cottage country). Also, the consequences of a hard landing are worse: instead of an embarrasing bounce on a runway, you end up digging in a float and flipping, then trying to escape from a cabin upside-down and underwater with a door latch that won’t open.

The strangest part of the article is a claim from Transport Canada that — despite repeated pleas from the Transportation Safety Board, who investigates these fatal accidents — TC cannot issue an Airworthiness Directive (AD) to make floatplane doors easier to open for escaping, because most of the planes are not made in Canada, and thus, are outside their jurisdiction.

Perhaps they’ve forgotten about AD CF-90-03R2, by which Transport Canada mandates an annual inspection of the muffler shroud for possible carbon-monoxide leaks from my American-certified and built Lycoming engine through the heater into the cabin of my American-certified and built Piper Warrior II (for the record, since I fly a lot in the winter, I’d have this inspection done with or without an AD).

Floatplane flying matters more in Canada than the U.S., so if there’s going to be an AD, it will have to come from us: while taxiing up to your friend’s dock is nice, commercial floatplanes are also the lifeline to many small northern communities, bringing in food, medicine, doctors, teachers, etc. and flying out people suffering from medical emergencies. Even if the floatplane drowning fatalities don’t add up to a lot in the bigger scheme of things, they leave this small part of the population — the ones who have no choice but to use floatplanes — extremely vulnerable.

[Update: the difference between the TSB’s request and AD CF-90-03 is that the latter deals only with an inspection, while the TSB’s request deals with a modification — perhaps that’s the place where TC is stuck.]

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4 Responses to Float planes

  1. Pingback: Land and Hold Short » Float Planes, redux

  2. Glenn Barr says:

    Where can I find an annual list of float plane accidents in Canada? Thanks

  3. david says:

    I don’t know of anywhere that separates the accidents out by type, but you can read a selection of aviation accident reports for each year here:


  4. Al Gray says:

    Dear Sir aclassic example of impeded egress from an inverted floatplane is a cessna 206 rear door mechanism,when flaps are deployed they are useless for exit .However there is a modification approved by Australian a/c safety authority that allow s the rear doors to operate.My question is why is there so much red tape when approving simple safety modes that will save lives

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