Single-Engine Sea Ratings

Most of us floatplane travelers feel lucky to sit co-pilot. But there are those few – those daring few – who saddle up to the controls and take that bird off the water themselves.

Kenmore Air’s flight instruction program offers the most popular advanced floatplane training in the world. Students come from far and wide to climb into the cockpit with our instructors. We’ve worked with locals. We’ve worked with Brits. We’ve worked with East Coasters and Southerners. We’ve even worked with someone from the Netherlands.

After all, why wouldn’t you come to Kenmore to earn your Single-Engine Sea Rating? (See Single-Engine Sea Rating description below.) No operator in the country has more floatplane experience.

Ready to sign up? Just hold on one second. First you need a license. Before you begin, Kenmore Air requires you to have a minimum of a Private Pilot Certificate and a current FAA Third Class medical. Which I do not. Instead I got the skinny from one of our instructors – Alistair Davidson.

What is a Single-Engine Sea Rating?
If you want to really look like you’re in the floatplane know, make sure to call your Single-Engine Sea Rating an ‘Add On.’ “That’s the slang term,” Alistair told me. Why? Because this ‘Add On’ is in addition to your primary pilot license. It is identified by a small marking on your license.

Why would someone get their Single-Engine Sea Rating?
“Typically, it’s just people who want to fly,” said Alistair. Kenmore Air does not rent floatplanes and I could find no company which does. For many who love to climb into the cockpit, earning their ‘Add On’ is an excellent opportunity to get behind the controls. Additionally, Kenmore Air helps many earn their rating who are building or buying their own floatplane.

What are the three most important things when flying?
I asked Alistair what were the three most important things he coveres before a student ever climbs into the plane. These were his top three:

1 – Wind Awareness
Kenmore Air’s exceptional safety track record is due in large part to their wind awareness. This is particularly true during flight training. “The SuperCub’s are so light any time there is too much wind we don’t go flying,” said Alistair. “I cut off any flights at about 12 – 15 knots. If you are getting white caps – no flying. If it is close to white caps – no flying. It has to be pretty smooth water.”

2 – General Situation Awareness
Most pilots who come to get their ‘Add On’ are used to operating at a controlled airport. This means someone is telling them when they are cleared to taxi, take off, and land. At Kenmore Air, pilots have to navigate other planes, tugboats, wake borders, and jet skiers. “You have to have your eyes open,” warned Alistair.

3 – Step Attitude
Step Attitude is one of the major skills a student must learn to earn their ‘Add On.’ What is it? It’s when the plane is sitting up, out of the water moving quickly over the surface with the least resistance. “When you’re sitting in the cockpit, there’s a sight picture (found on the control dash board) that shows when the floatplane is traveling  with the least amount of drag,” Alistair explained.

Who is Alistair?
This English born pilot still has a bit of an accent despite living in California for many of his teen years. He first saw floatplanes as a kid visiting Seattle. “I thought it was pretty cool to see Kenmore take off and land it Lake Union,” he said.

It wasn’t until after college Alistair realized he wanted to be in the cockpit full time. “I asked myself what would be the most fun and this was the answer,” he said.

Now Alistair lives in Seattle. He likes to play tennis go snowboarding, and enjoy all the beautiful scenery from the air. Someday he hopes to fly the Lake Union – San Juan run and land a Beaver in Lake Isabel.

Have you earned your Single-Engine Sea Rating? Do you want to?




Photo Credit – Brandson Freeman, Kenmore Air Employee

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