seaplane pilots’ model code of conduct

reprinted with permission from secureaviation ©2006

This document and its concept is fully supported by the staff of Pilotfriend. We believe that a code of conduct has been rather long in coming and this proposal is an excellent start.

Recommended voluntary practices for seaplane pilots to advance flight safety, airmanship and the aviation community


The Seaplane Pilots’ Model Code of Conduct (Code of Conduct) presents broad guidance and recommendations for seaplane pilots to improve airmanship, flight safety, and to sustain and improve the seaplane community.

The Code of Conduct presents a vision of excellence in seaplane aviation. Its principles both complement and supplement what is merely legal. The Code of Conduct is not a “standard” and not intended to be implemented as such.

The Principles:
The Code of Conduct consists of the following seven sections (each containing principles and sample recommended practices):

  1. General Responsibilities of Seaplane Aviators

  2. Care of Passengers and People Near the Seaplane

  3. Training and Proficiency

  4. security

  5. Environmental Issues

  6. Use of Technology

  7. Advancement and Promotion of Seaplane aviation

The Sample Recommended Practices:

To further the effective use of the Code of Conduct’s principles, Sample Recommended Practices offer examples of ways pilots might integrate the principles into their own practices. The Sample Recommended Practices (which include selected personal minimums) can help seaplane pilots and organizations develop practices uniquely suited to their own activities and situations. Unlike the Code of Conduct principles themselves, the Sample Recommended Practices may be modified to satisfy the unique capabilities and requirements of each pilot, mission, aircraft and seaplane organization. Some Sample Recommended Practices exceed the stringency of their associated Code of Conduct principles.

They are not presented in any particular order, except that instrument flight rule (IFR) specific Sample Recommended Practices appear last.

Note: Approach/departure IFR and night seaplane operations are not authorized in some jurisdictions, such as in Canada (except for authorized IFR pilots operating enroute or in amphibious aircraft).

Benefits of the Code of Conduct:
The Code of Conduct benefits seaplane pilots and the seaplane community by:

  • highlighting important practices that will help seaplane pilots become better, safer aviators,

  • addressing individual seaplane pilot's roles within the larger GA community, by examining issues such as improved pilot training, better airmanship, desired pilot conduct and pilots’ contributions to the seaplane community and society at large,

  • encouraging the development and adoption of ethical guidelines,

  • advancing self-regulation by the seaplane community instead of burdensome governmental regulation, and

  • promoting seaplane aviation and making seaplane flying a more rewarding experience.

Seaplane Pilots’ Model
Code of Conduct - Principles

1 General Responsibilities of Seaplane Aviators
Seaplane pilots should:

  • make safety their number one priority,

  • seek excellence in airmanship and seamanship,

  • develop and exercise good judgment,

  • recognize and manage risks effectively,

  • adhere to prudent operating practices and personal operating parameters (e.g., minimums),

  • aspire to professionalism,

  • act with responsibility and courtesy, and

  • adhere to applicable laws and regulations.

Explanation: Code of Conduct Section I serves as a preamble to and umbrella for the Code of Conduct’s other principles. It emphasizes safety, excellence, risk management, responsibility, and lays the foundation for accountability and heightened diligence.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Approach flying with the utmost seriousness and diligence, recognizing that your life and the lives of your passengers and others depend on you.

  • Recognize, accept and plan for the costs of implementing proper safety practices (often greater than expected).

  • Identify prevailing conditions and adapt to changing in-flight conditions based on sound principles of airmanship and risk management.

  • Recognize the increased risks associated with glassy water (causing reduced depth perception) and rough-water/open-sea conditions, and/or with flying in inclement weather, at night, and over rugged, mountainous or forested terrain. Take steps to manage those risks effectively and prudently without exceeding personal parameters

  • Recognize the extreme risks associated with night water operations (due to the inability to see the surface and obstructions).

  • Develop, use, periodically review and refine personal checklists and personal minimums for all phases of seaplane operations. Seek the input and review of these materials by a certificated flight instructor/experienced seaplane pilot.

  • Recognize and respond to the inherent differences in flying a seaplane out of the system (e.g., out of controlled airspace).

  • Commit to making personal wellness a precondition of flying

  • Know your personal susceptibility to hypoxia; carry supplemental oxygen on flights where its use may benefit you or your passengers; and establish O2 personal minimums—for example, daytime above 8,000 ft. MSL and night time above 5,000 ft. MSL.

  • See and be seen. Employ techniques for seeing other aircraft, such as scanning, and techniques to enhance your own visibility to avoid other aircraft, such as the use of radio, lights, and strobes (except while taxiing or in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)).

  • Minimize turns and manoeuvres below 500 feet AGL (except as required for landings and obstacle departure procedures).

  • Comply with or exceed the requirements for mandatory inspections and Airworthiness Directives (ADs), and voluntarily adhere to manufacturers’ recommended inspections, service bulletins and checklists.

  • For cross-country operations, identify alternate landing sites and available fuel along the planned route prior to departure should deteriorating weather or other emergency circumstances make continued flight unsafe.

  • Adhere to applicable flying club/school and FBO/flight centre rules and operating practices.

  • Recognize that a seaplane is particularly susceptible to ice loading due to the float-related surfaces.

  • Develop and adhere to personal conservative operating parameters, such as the following personal minimums:

    • Minimum descent altitude/decision height (MDA/DH) - exercise extreme caution and voluntarily limit approaches where ceilings are under 800 ft. AGL and visibility is under 1 mi. for under 1,000 ft. AGL and visibility is under 3 mi. for circling approaches. Never execute a circling approach at night unless there is no alternative and you are capable of safely executing such an approach. In deteriorating weather conditions and at night, observe higher minimums.

    • Approaches - limit approaches to a maximum of two (in the same location under the same or deteriorating weather conditions) and do not prematurely cancel IFR. In an unstable approach inside the Final Approach Fix in IMC, execute the missed approach procedure.

    • Departures - select a “departure alternate” landing site (for emergency landings just after departure), and depart only in conditions above applicable arrival or departure minimums (unless a nearby airport has an available ILS).

    • Night operations – recognize the increased risks associated with night operations and fly IFR whenever practical at night (if rated and proficient).

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2. Passengers and People Near the Seaplane
Seaplane pilots should:

  • maintain passenger safety first and then reasonable passenger comfort,

  • manage risks and avoid unnecessary risks to passengers and to people and property near the seaplane,

  • brief passengers on planned flight procedures and inform them of any significant or unusual risks associated with the flight,

  • seek to prevent unsafe conduct by passengers, and

  • avoid operations that may alarm or annoy passengers or people near the seaplane.

Explanation: You are solely responsible for the safety and comfort of your passengers. Passengers place their lives in pilots' hands, and pilots should exercise sufficient care on their behalf. Such care includes, but is not limited to, disclosing unusual risks and exercising prudent risk management. Pilot responsibility also extends to people near your seaplane.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Keep your passengers as safe as possible—as though they were your closest loved ones.

  • Aspire to act toward your passengers with professionalism.

  • Complete a comprehensive, professional passenger briefing using a checklist as an aide.

  • Seek to improve safety margins, and always act conservatively to maintain flight safety.

  • Tactfully disclose risks to each passenger and accept a prospective passenger’s decision to refrain from participating.

  • Require that passengers wear seat belts and shoulder harnesses, and consider the use of headsets (or ear plugs) during flight operations.

  • Require each passenger to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), and to understand its operation and limitations, including the dangers of PDF inflation prior to egressing the aircraft.

  • Become familiar with and if feasible consider obtaining favourable insurance coverage for passengers and urge passengers to do so as well.

  • Instruct passengers to avoid touching or obstructing critical flight controls.

  • Encourage passengers to serve as safety resources – for example, by having them identify nearby aircraft/watercraft, organizing charts, and keep track of landmarks.

  • Screen unfamiliar passengers for safety and security purposes.

  • Plan and conduct seaplane operations (including take-offs, approaches and landings) to minimize concerns and fears of passengers and parties in watercraft and on the surface.

  • Do not over-fly boats or people below tree-top level.

  • Neither land behind nor taxi alongside a sailboat as it may turn across the wind without warning. Give wide-berth to personal watercraft. Assume that watercraft do not see you.

  • Neither land near an idle ski boat nor a boat pulling or retrieving a skier.

  • Maintain proficiency at recognizing wind direction and water conditions for water operations.

  • Recognize and respond to the special weight and balance issues affecting seaplanes.

  • Become familiar with applicable boaters’ handbooks and regulations.

  • Become a proficient swimmer/lifesaver and learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

  • Complete an underwater egress course and become proficient in such procedures.

  • Provide an instructive passenger briefing in advance of the flight.

  • Determine the applicable experience, background and concerns of each passenger and incorporate them into the pre-flight briefing and flight activities.

  • Brief passengers on underwater egress procedures, and have each passenger locate and open the nearest door with their eyes closed. Advise passengers that assistance may not be available when egressing the airplane in an emergency.

  • Exercise extreme caution when permitting passengers to assist in docking/launching.

  • If practicable, with passengers, consider using available precision approaches when flying in IMC or at night.

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3. Training and Proficiency
Seaplane pilots should:

  • participate in training to maintain and improve proficiency beyond satisfying minimum legal requirements,

  • participate in flight safety education programmes,

  • act with vigilance and avoid complacency,

  • train to recognize and deal effectively with emergencies, and

  • accurately log hours flown and manoeuvres practiced to satisfy training and currency requirements.

Explanation: Training and proficiency underlie aviation safety. Recurrent training is a major component of flight safety. Such training includes both air and ground training. Each contributes significantly to flight safety and neither can substitute for the other. Training sufficient to promote flight safety may well exceed what is required by law.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Pursuing a rigorous, life-long course of aviation study.

  • Follow and periodically review programs of study or series of training exercises to improve proficiency. Adhere to a training regime that will yield new ratings, certifications and endorsements—or at the very least, greater flight proficiency.

  • Train for flight in unique environments such as over water, remote or desert, and mountainous terrain, Train for survival and carry adequate (water-proofed) survival equipment and appropriate water-resistant and warm clothing. Seek the advice of search and rescue or experienced seaplane pilots who have survived incidents.

  • Know your aircraft's performance limitations, how to plan flights and determine fuel requirements.

  • Achieve and maintain proficiency in the efficient and functional operation of technology-intensive aviation equipment.

  • Know current aviation regulations and understand their implications and rationale. Spend time each month reviewing the aviation regulations.

  • Understand and comply with the privileges and limitations of your pilot certificate.

  • Attend aviation training programs offered by industry organizations or your civil aviation authority.

  • Participate in your civil aviation authority Pilot Proficiency Programmes if available.

  • Keep up to date with diverse and relevant aviation publications.

  • Study and develop a practical knowledge of aviation weather.

  • Each month, review reports of recent or nearby accidents or incidents, focusing on contributing factors.

  • Demonstrate conformance periodically to applicable civil aviation authority practical test standards periodically, and complete additional training as necessary to exceed those minimum standards.

  • Before attempting a cross-country flight or carrying passengers in an unfamiliar aircraft, complete at least one training flight in that unfamiliar aircraft model, and discern differences among similar aircraft (that is, same make and model but varying tail numbers).

  • Avoid practicing training manoeuvres near highly populated areas.

  • Seek to fly at least once every two weeks and at least one night a month from land (for amphibious seaplanes), to include at least three take-offs and landings, or else refrain from flying at night.

  • Develop a practical knowledge of the mechanics and systems of each aircraft you fly.

  • Join a “type club” appropriate to the aircraft you fly to learn more about it (for example, the Cessna Pilots Association, Lake Amphibian Flyers Club or other aircraft-specific club).

  • Complete the equivalent of a Flight Review annually rather than every two years and, if instrument rated, an instrument proficiency check every six months.

  • Maintain currency including for day, night and IFR operations that exceeds minimum regulatory requirements.

  • Register with your Civil Aviation Authority for safety meeting announcements and safety literature.

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4 Security
Seaplane pilots should:

  • seek to maintain the security of all persons and property associated with their aviation activities,

  • remain vigilant and immediately report suspicious, reckless or illegal activities,

  • secure their aircraft to prevent unauthorized use, and

  • avoid special-use airspace except when approved or necessary in an emergency.

Explanation: This Section addresses preventing criminal acts and promoting national security. The events of 9/11 have had a profound impact on aviation in some countries and have created demands for responsive action. Enhanced security awareness by aviators is a stark new reality for the seaplane community in some countries. Accordingly, this section responds proactively to various new threats and vulnerabilities.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Check thoroughly for temporary flight restrictions before every flight and in-flight during long flights.

  • Use a transponder (with altitude encoding) except when not authorized.

  • Use additional or enhanced locks or other anti-theft devices to secure all aircraft.

  • When carrying passengers who are not well known to the pilot, examine passenger carry-on bags for dangerous materials.

  • Confirm that ramp access gates are closed securely behind you to prevent “tailgating” by unauthorized persons.

  • Become familiar with your local Airport Watch or similar organisation and other means to report and deter suspicious activities.

  • Report flight safety hazards or anomalies (such as inoperative VORs and poor radio coverage) and security concerns to the appropriate authorities.

  • Use VFR “flight following” (in Europe, “Flight Information Service”) when practicable.

  • Always file a flight plan for cross country flights. Avoid deviating from an active flight plan (both IFR and VFR) or from a clearance without notifying ATC.

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5 Environmental Issues
Seaplane pilots should:

  • recognize and seek to mitigate the environmental impact of aircraft operations,

  • minimize the discharge of fuel, oil and other chemicals into the environment, particularly during refuelling, pre-flight preparations and servicing,

  • avoid environmentally sensitive areas, and

  • mitigate aircraft noise in populated or other noise-sensitive areas and comply with applicable noise-abatement procedures.

Explanation: Mitigation of pollution caused by aviation activities is important both to the general public, to minimize harm to the environment, and to the seaplane community, to avoid unfavourable public perceptions. Indeed, environmental issues such as noise pollution can close waterways and airports, and otherwise jeopardize seaplane aviation. Other environmental impacts of seaplane aviation have garnered less attention but nevertheless deserve emphasis.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Use a Gasoline Analysis Test Separator jar for all fuel sampling and return fuel samples to the fuel tanks or dispose of them properly.

  • Learn and adopt environmentally responsible methods for all aspects of aircraft care, especially degreasing aircraft and handling run-off.

  • Keep fuel absorbent material on board the seaplane and be prepared to respond immediately to fuel or oil spills in the water.

  • Prevent the transfer of invasive species between water environments.

  • Learn relevant applicable local noise abatement procedures and adhere to them whenever it is safe to do so.

  • Be aware of the noise signature of your seaplane and follow procedures to reduce noise, such as reducing engine power and propeller RPM, as soon as practicable after takeoff.

  • Limit approaches to a maximum of two (in one location) when practicing splash-and-gos to prevent annoying people on the surface.

  • Maintain adequate clearance from populated areas to reduce noise to persons near to the shore.

  • Conform to recommended practices (such as those of the National Park Service) when flying near wilderness and environmentally sensitive areas. Consider the impact of aircraft on wildlife and people on the surface.

  • Patronize service providers (such as FBOs, repair services and aircraft cleaners) that adhere to environmentally friendly practices.

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6 Use of Technology
Seaplane pilots should:

  • become familiar with and properly use appropriate available cost-effective technologies,

  • monitor applicable airport advisory frequencies and report position when approaching non-towered or unattended airports, seaplane bases and seaplane landing areas, and other higher-risk areas,

  • use transponders or next-generation position-indicating technologies during in-flight operations unless otherwise authorized by ATC, inoperable, or not equipped, and use ATC “flight following” for VFR enroute operations, and

  • carry redundant transceivers and navigational equipment and use them in appropriate circumstances.

Explanation: Innovative, compact, inexpensive technologies have greatly expanded the capabilities of seaplanes. This Section encourages the use of such safety-enhancing technologies.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Use radios and transponders consistently, except when not authorized.

  • When practicable, invest in new technologies that advance flight safety, and train to use them properly. Learn and understand the features and limitations of such technologies.

  • Keep a back-up (portable or permanently installed) radio/navigation aid accessible (including extra batteries or a back-up power supply) during all flight operations.

  • Maintain all avionics and flight instruments to keep them operational, current and approved for the intended flight.

  • Use VFR “flight following” whenever practicable.

  • Maintain competency and proficiency in “conventional” flight planning and operations to enhance flight safety in the event of the failure or unavailability of advanced technologies or services.

  • Consider the safety benefits of a gear advisory system for your amphibian.

  • Recognize the safety benefits of cell and satellite phones for water and remote operations.

  • Recognize that programming navigation systems in flight may distract pilots from other pilot duties and increase programming errors.

  • Avoid programming navigation systems while taxiing (for single pilot operations).

  • Whenever practicable, avoid flying in or near level 2 (or higher) weather radar returns, especially when convection is present or expected.

  • In IMC and at night, operate with an operational autopilot or a qualified second pilot if possible.

  • In IMC, operate with attitude-indicator (AI) system redundancy if practicable and maintain partial-panel proficiency.

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7 Advancement and Promotion of Seaplane aviation
Seaplane pilots should:

  • advance and promote seaplane aviation, safety, and adherence to the Code of Conduct,

  • volunteer in and contribute to organizations that promote seaplane aviation, and use their aviation skills to contribute to society at large,

  • demonstrate appreciation for aviation service providers,

  • advance a seaplane aviation culture that values openness, humility, positive attitudes, and the pursuit of personal improvement, and

  • promote ethical behaviour within the seaplane community.

Explanation: Seaplane (and other GA) operations have a well-recognized (and undeserved) public relations problem that is, in many respects, worsening. Vigilance and responsive action by the seaplane community are essential to ensure its vitality and to enhance the aviation experience for both you and for others.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Advance the endearment of the seaplane community to the coastal and maritime fraternities.

  • Endear the seaplane community to the boating public as a valuable resource.

  • Strive to conform fully to the Code of Conduct.

  • Approach your water operations as if you are an invited guest on the water.

  • Serve as a seaplane aviation ambassador to the public by providing accurate information and refuting misinformation concerning seaplane activities, and by encouraging potential student pilots.

  • Volunteer in support of seaplane aviation.

  • Consider joining and actively participating in local boating organizations and the Coast Guard.

  • Make charitable use of your aviation resources (for example, by transporting persons seeking medical care or donating flight time to youth and environmental programs).

  • Express appreciation to controllers and service personnel for their assistance and good service.

  • Participate in aviation-related fund-raising events.

  • Invite constructive criticism from your fellow aviators (and provide the same when asked).

  • Adhere to the highest ethical principles in all aviation dealings, including business practices.

  • Seek to resolve disputes informally and congenially.

AD Airworthiness Directive
AGL Above Ground Level
ATC Air Traffic Control
CPR Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
FBO Fixed Base Operator (servicing)
GA General Aviation
IFR Instrument Flight Rules
IMC Instrument Meteorological Conditions
IPC Instrument Proficiency Check
MDA/DH Min. Descent Altitude/Decision Height
PFD Personal Flotation Device
PTS Practical Test Standards
TFR Temporary Flight Restrictions
VFR Visual Flight Rules
VMC Visual Meteorological Conditions


The Code of Conduct implementation is a customized version of the Seaplane Pilots’ Model Code of Conduct created by Michael S. Baum.  ©2003-2006 Michael S. Baum.  All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Use are available at .

Pilots and the aviation community may use the Seaplane Pilots’ Model Code of Conduct as a resource for code of conduct development, although it is recommended that this be supported by independent research on the suitability of its principles for specific or local applications and situations.  It is not intended to provide legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. 

Edits, Errata, Comments

The Seaplane Pilots’ Model Code of Conduct is a living document, intended to be updated periodically to reflect changes in aviation practices and the aviation environment.  Please send your suggestions, edits, errata, questions and comments to: . 


The Seaplane Pilots’ Model Code of Conduct has had the benefit of extensive editorial comment and suggestions by a diverse body of the seaplane community, and beyond.  See “Acknowledgments” at < >.  The Seaplane Pilots’ Model Code of Conduct Drafting Group included: Michael S. Baum, Robert B. Curtis, Prof. Dale DeRemer, Ray Hawco, David Wiley, and Walter B. Windus.  The Permanent Editorial Board of the Code of Conduct is presented at .