Getting a seaplane rating in Hawaii in 4 short days


Last week I happened to fly to Hawaii to add an endorsement to my license – floats! The airfare was cheap and earlier this year the cost of the endorsement was actually cheaper than doing it in Oz (until we were slammed with a terrible exchange rate!). Any who, I went anyway and was to spend 7 glorious days learning how to fly floats.

My trip started with my flight out of Sydney being cancelled care of a bird strike that Jetstar had had on an earlier flight – and they were just inspecting it now that we were ON the plane and ready to GO! So delayed by 24 hours I was worried I wasn’t going to have enough time to get it all done in just 6 days.


When I arrived I went straight to the FAA and got my USA license conversion sorted. Paper in hand, I popped along to the Island Seaplanes (with whom I was to do my rating – they call it a rating in the States), and they informed me there was an airshow on over the weekend and a restricted airspace was being enforced – so no flying for 2 days! My 6 days was now 4… could I get a seaplane rating in 4 days?…


So with that news I went and checked into my Polynesian Waikiki Hostel. Not the flashest accommodation in town but the cheapest I could find (the exchange rate still playing a significant role in my Hawaiian Seaplane Adventure experience). This was the Friday, I had a little Hawaiian nap in the steaming autumn 40 degree heat and humidity, and that afternoon took my first seaplane flight in the C206 with John Whalen (an x-nuclear submarine pool boy he tells me!). Some snaps from the flight below. Not a bad place to learn how to land on water!


After some pretty amazing sightseeing from the sky and yes, a C206 aeroplane familiarisation. I was done and headed back to Waikiki where I found a lovely place to enjoy some food, have a Kone Longboard Lager and enjoy a typical Hawaiian sunset.


So Saturday and Sunday were a bit of a bust for my training BUT there was a pretty amazing airshow in town who’s headline act was the USA Navy’s Blue Angels (apparently they are a pretty big deal).


The airshow was held at Kaneohe Naval base (where later in the week I was to do my training in the South Bay – north of Coconut Island). The whole thing was totally Americana. It was awesome. I got called “Ma’am” A LOT!

Here you can see the Blue Angels lined up in the background to Alan Miller’s aerobatic show in an Aronka Champ – he pretends to be a drunk contestant winner who is learning to fly! Hmmmm – what does that say about flying in Hawaii??


He does some pretty death-defying air-work at 50-100 ft as part of his act. He’s also famous for landing his Champ on the world’s smallest runway – a ramp on the back of a truck. You can find that on YouTube if you’re interested. My Seaplane instructor (John) had Alan teach him how to fly.

More pics from the show – this is a C-5 Galaxy. The most giant airplane I’ve ever been in.


And of course at the airshow there was plenty of very American food on offer. I personally can’t vouch for the deep friend Twinkies but I do subscribe to the theory that everything DOES taste better fried!


Food was obviously a big thing for me while I wasn’t flying… I had nothing else to do! So I visited some food institutions. My favourite being The Cheesecake Factory (made famous by The Big Bang Theory) – I had a celebratory piece of salted caramel cheesecake on my last day. Yum.


As you can see. The weather was terrible.


So of my 4 days of flying I did 8 flights, and mastered sailing, docking, glassy water landings, rough water and cross wind take offs, as well as the three types of taxi. I was awesome at getting up on “the step” – come do your rating… you’ll learn what I mean.

My FAA examiner, pictured below on the left, flew in from Alaska for my check ride. A very experienced bush pilot who goes by the name of Clark Miller. We did some laps in Kaneohe Bay and I got some excellent feedback and even some compliments about my glassy water technique. After we landed a few times and I didn’t sink the aeroplane he said, “Right, you passed. Take me home!”

Wheeeeeeeee… I’m now a qualified seaplane pilot. Apparently that makes me a real pilot according to these float guys.


Clark, me, and Pat Maggie (owner of Island Seaplanes and legend seaplane pilot) pictured above.