Hangar 9 1/4-scale Cub floats are
on Doug Crummley’s Cub.
I do not recommend using
wooden propellers for flying
off of water. You would be
amazed at how much a little
spray can damage a wooden
Takeoff and Landing
On a calm day, it’s no
problem! Taxi out, go to idle
to let whatever breeze there is weathervane your model into
the wind, and apply constant throttle. Try to avoid crosswind
takeoffs! You are carrying more weight, so you will need
a higher airspeed before you lift off. You don’t have the
advantage of seeing the stuff beside the runway speeding by,
and airspeed can fool you on a flat lake.
Let the model skim along on-step for a while. If you
correctly set the incidence, it will try to lift off on its own. You
should not need to apply much elevator to take off. If you
do, then you probably don’t have enough airspeed and a tip
stall is likely.
out at a low
have to land.
Flair into your
add a couple of
clicks of throttle
You want the
aircraft to skim
onto the water,
not plop into it.
If it plops, the
going tail over nose increases.
On breezy days, the taxiing can be challenging. Use your
ailerons and rudder to quarter into the wind as much as
possible. There is nothing more frustrating than a slow roll
onto your back before you even get in your first flight. If you
are a first-time water pilot and it’s windy, control your urge to
try it and wait for a calmer day for your first water flight!
I would never attempt to fly off of water without a retrieval
boat available. I also like to have a rod and reel handy. I attach
a tennis ball to the line and cast it out over the model for
Because the flotation is in the center of a seaplane, the
model has a tendency to tip to one side on taxi and takeoff.
There are tip floats on the wing to help keep the model level,
but it is easy to catch a tip float.
There are some sport seaplanes that minimize this
problem—models that set low in the water with a pod or
a tail-mounted engine/motor. Some of these aircraft are
acceptable for first-time water fliers. (The Polaris Seaplane
Parkflyer, Tidewater, ICON A5, and Neptune 40 have all been
reviewed in this magazine and are good examples.)
Single-float models provide the same challenges as seaplanes,
but the problems are accentuated because the weight of the
model sets on struts high above the water. This creates a slight
inverted-pendulum effect, so this type of model has a greater
tendency to tip.
I am fond of Old-Timer-style floats when the model has a
vintage appearance. It performs similar to a water ski. With
the top of the float level, the wing incidence is either zero or
Yes, there are additional challenges when flying from water,
but the reward of seeing your model skimming across the
water makes the effort worthwhile. I hope you found this
article helpful and I will try to respond to all emails with
questions on float-flying. Please put “float-fly question” in the
subject line so I won’t think it’s a spam email.
For information about two great float-flying events, the
Midwest Regional Float Fly and the Heart of America Float
Fly, visit the websites listed in “Sources.”
Tips for Success
• Choose a model that has spritely
takeoff power on grass.
• Floats should be 75-80% of the
• Install rigid float attachments.
• Ensure + 2° wing incidence.
• Step slightly behind the CG.
• 10% of the float should be ahead of
the propeller disk.
• The water rudder clears the water
• Take off into the wind.
• The aircraft should fly to the water
maintaining a little power.
Plane Fun Floats
Heart of America Float Fly
Midwest Regional Float Fly
42 Model Aviation APRIL 2014