Maximum range of a seaplane

I just watched this interestingvideoabout the most remote locations on Earth.
It talks about places that are very far from airports, and how long it would take to reach them by boat. Are there any of them that could be reached by a seaplane?

Yes. Most seaplanes are built to operate out of lakes and ponds rather than the literal ocean but some of them can. China recently rolled out this very large seaplane with a range of 2800 miles. One of its roles it for firefighting so it could presumably be modified to hold even more fuel for even greater range. That can get you to a whole lot of places non-stop.

The Panama Clippers circa WWII had a range of up to 3685 miles. All were scrapped or sunk however.

Technically a ship, here’s the MD-160 from the Soviets. Flies in ground effect above water and possibly very flat land .:slight_smile:

Had a range of 1000 miles.

The above wiki also mentions a newer proposed model with a range of up to 3000 miles.

Here’s another current ~3000 mile range seaplane:

Recognize that if your intention is to fly to a very remote place to deliver & pick up stuff, odds are that very remote place won’t be stocked with fuel for your return trip. If you’re going to have to carry fuel for the round trip back to civilization, your effective range is 40-45% of max. Which may be further reduced if you need to carry lots of heavy cargo that further limits the fuel you can carry.

Oh, to have just one Boeing 314 survive for posterity’s sake…what a magnificent aircraft! I’ve been on the Short Soylent at the Oakland Aviation Museum and can only imagine how opulent the 314 would’ve been for passengers of the day.

Great book on the subject: [Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats](Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats)

Oops, missed the edit window. I screwed up the link for the book–this should work: Pan American Clippers: The Golden Age of Flying Boats

There’s that. You also have to worry about the sea state when you arrive (if the waves are too big, you’re not landing), and what sort of port, beach, or anchorage is available at the place you’re trying to reach. Seaplanes are rather finicky about maneuvering on water and can’t always taxi up to any old dock.

There’s a reconstruction of one at a museum in Ireland, but yeah, it would be sweet to have just one of the real thing still around. Gorgeous airplane, right up there with the Constellation.

As for the video linked in the OP, I was wondering if the ISS really came as close to Point Nemo as it claimed. It looked like Point Nemo might be too far south for the ISS to pass overhead. But I checked, and it does. It’s close, though. the ISS orbit is inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator, and Point Nemo is as almost 49 degrees south latitude.

This site says the Grumman Albatross (of which a reasonable number remain airworthy) has a maximum range of 2850 miles.

Yeah. IMO “seaplanes” really ought to be called “harborplanes”; open ocean landings are for fairly glassy conditions only. A sheltered bay is pretty much necessary.

Amphibious seaplanes typically expect to waddle onshore for loading and unloading. Which requires a very broad shallow concrete ramp akin to a giant version of the typical launching ramp for trailered smallish boats. Alternatively they need a long finger-style floating pier set a couple feet above water level. The typical docking arrangement for ships is a flat-sided quay 20-50 feet above water level. That’s pretty much useless for seaplanes.

The most time and labor intensive method is simply to anchor the seaplane in shallow water and lighter the cargo & pax to shore in small boats.

If you’re flying to an island somewhere, at least one side of it will be sheltered from the wind, so that would keep the waves down a bit. You might still have a problem if you needed to dock or beach the plane on the windward side.

There’s another trick with seaplanes and wind, though. Airplanes are a bit like darts or badminton shuttlecocks; they will point themselves into the wind. And most of the time, that’s exactly what you want them to do. But when you’re trying to pull up alongside a dock, it can be tricky. Sometimes you don’t have a choice of which direction you approach the dock from, or which side of the plane will be at the dock. And some airplanes only have doors on one side.

I should say that what I know about seaplanes is only the fairly small ones. When Quint tells his tale of the sinking of the Indianapolis in “Jaws”, it ends with them being rescued by a PBY, so they must have been able to land in open ocean at least sometimes.

The Short Sunderland had a range of 4796 km. The PBY Catalina had a range of 4030 km.

I remember a shot in a WWII newsreel showing a PBY-5 Catalina landing in the open ocean, in rough conditions. I tried to look for it after LSLguy’s post, but couldn’t find it. Lots of water splashing up over the aircraft, and the plane plunged its nose into the waves as it taxied.

Seaplanes used to land on the open ocean routinely, ‘conditions permitting’. Besides flying boats being used for open ocean rescue as mentioned, the float planes carried by cruisers and battleships in the interwar-WWII period were not intended to be limited to use only where the ship could enter sheltered water to retrieve them. Although, they would have the advantage of the ship positioning itself to block the wind and smooth out the sea somewhat when they landed, and they were typically catapulted to take off, and subject to exposure to wave damage only when landing.

Anyway the idea of seaplanes alighting in open water tended to die out post WWII. Expectations of safety increased. In WWII when heavy ship launched float planes and harbor based flying boats were pretty routinely alighting on and in latter case taking off from the open sea, and occasionally cracking up doing so, land planes were also often cracking up in routine operations. With later expectations of relatively extremely safe land plane operation compared to WWII era, there was no way to match it with sea planes if they attempted open sea landings and take offs.

An aircraft which spanned those two periods was the Grumman HU-16 (as designated after 1962) Albatross amphibian flying boat. It was introduced in the late 1940’s but the US Coast Guard operated it until the early 1980’s. Early in its career (also with the USAF as SA-16) it would sometimes land on the open sea to directly perform rescues. Later on USCG operating doctrine was changed to prohibit that, and the a/c would only find survivors and drop them rescue gear and/or supplies like a land plane would, until survivors were directly rescued by helicopter or ship. Replacement a/c in a similar role with the USCG have been land planes.

Ref the three posts above …

Yup. That’s the fully nuanced version of seaplanes vs “harborplanes”. What worked acceptably badly in 1940s wartime IMO isn’t relevant to routine resupply of remote outposts in 2017 peacetime. But it absolutely *did *work. Sorta.

Now I’m too young to die in a lousy PBY
That’s for the eager not for me
I don’t trust in my luck to be picked up by a Duck
After I’ve crashed into the sea

The point was supposedly that those remote destinations don’t have runways, so they are very hard to reach. However they can easily be reached by a long-range seaplane or a helicopter with aerial refueling.

The video incorrectly said the closest airport to Tristan De Cuna was Ascension Island at about 2,000 miles. However Saint Helena is only 1,200 miles away and has an airport.

1,200 mi is pretty far but a Chinese TA-600 has a range of 3,100 miles. It would have no problem going that distance and returning:

Helicopters or a V-22 using aerial refueling could easily to fly there, drop off and pickup personnel, then fly back:

The video then mentioned the Devon Island which they claimed has “absolutely” zero people. However there is a NASA research facility there:

People obviously fly to Devon Island otherwise NASA couldn’t do work there:

The video then said you can’t get from the adjacent Resolute Island to Devon Island without a boat. However there is an airport at Resolute, which has it’s own Wikipedia entry:

Then the video then apparently tried to liken Devon Island to the superficially similar cold, barren environment of Antarctica. However planes fly there all the time: Inside DOD

Plus they featured a proto-GPS feature that would show your progress on a map.

Looks more like a Short Sunderland, although the nose isn’t quite right.

The flying boat from Indiana Jones is a Short Soylent modeled after the one in Oakland. They give tours and you can sit in Indy’s seat if you want.