Life of a Float Pilot

This forum has been developed to discuss aviation related topics.

Moderators: ahramin, sky's the limit, sepia, Sulako, lilfssister, North Shore, I WAS Birddog

Post Reply
MDTS
Rank 1
Rank 1
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:17 am

Life of a Float Pilot

Post by MDTS » Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:42 pm

Ok, so just looking for some information or some experience from some people in the field. I am currently sitting at around the 120 hr mark TT. Love to fly and want to do it for a living. Just wondering what the daily grind is like? Im sure it is different from company to company, but looking for information on salary starting off and home life. I love the outdoors and love the idea of flying floats. The constant challenge really excites me. Ive talked with some float training company's about finishing my CPL while obtaining my floats. Whats the job opportunity like? Any information would be appreciated! Thank you
---------- ADS -----------
  

Vern
Rank 1
Rank 1
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2015 5:37 pm

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by Vern » Tue Nov 24, 2015 6:53 pm

Wake up at 4:30am for a 5am charter. Hopefully I fueled the plane and got it ready the night before or the dockhand did it. Load up drums of fuel, propane, groceries or whatever. Fly to the lodge, unload. Install passenger seats, load up and go. Repeat 4 or 5 times a day. At least once a day there will be a flight where I have to go to a camp with the dockhand and cut firewood, cut the grass or fix something. Finish up an hour or so before sunset, have a beer on the dock with the crew, get something to eat and go to bed.

That's my typical day in June or July. 14 hour duty days and coming very close to flight time limits are the norm. I love it but it isn't easy.
---------- ADS -----------
  

MDTS
Rank 1
Rank 1
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:17 am

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by MDTS » Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:36 pm

Thanks Vern. That's what I figured a day would be like. Which may sound weird that I'm excited for that, but seeing as I pull 14 hour days already doing something that I do not want to do for the rest of my life, that is refreshing! Thanks!
---------- ADS -----------
  

esp803

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by esp803 » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:17 pm

Depends on the company, and the season, and the location... but here are a few examples of typical days:

1) Wake up at six am, walk over to a local restaurant for a quick bite to eat. It turns out eating at a restaurant is cheaper than cooking for yourself in this local. At about 0730 your driver pulls up with the F/O already in the vehicle. It's a 30 minutes drive to the airport that you are departing from (amphib floats), and you spend the time quizzing the F/O on systems, weather, emergencies and last nights conquests. After arriving at the airport you head up to the office to check the manifest, grab your flight plans, and flirt with your office staff. From there you head down to security to get to your airplane, you take your leatherman off and set it next to the metal detector with your coffee and walk through. You have 4 bars on and nobody questions what you have just done. Knife back on belt and coffee in hand you say hello to the x-ray watcher as he chuckles at the fact that you are also in shorts and sandals with those bars. Swinging by the national flight planning office on your way to the airplane you file your flight plan and get your weather package. Hot as hell. Going to be bumpy.

Get to the airplane, do a walk around, watch your F/O do a walk around and double check his fuel calculations. Now wait for the passengers to arrive, if all has gone well they should be there in 10 minutes... typically though things drag on a bit and an hour and a half late the passengers show up in an airport bus. Shit, there is two more than you were expecting. Update all the paperwork in chicken scratch. Call for push back and engine start. Denied. Military is out flying and it's going to be 30 minutes. Try to explain to ground that you need your engine for the A/C and you do not have an APU. Confusion over the complex English. First officer tries to explain in the local tongue. Denied. 30 minutes later, call again for push and start, now soaking in sweat. Finally... AC.... Decide to let the F/O get the first leg to give him a water landing, a bold move on a hot day, but they need to learn eventually. As he taxis you start doing your paper work. Get told to hold short for a 777, 2 787's, and a 747, all of whom haven't pushed back yet... 45 minutes later you are number 1. Finally get your take off clearance, and you're off to the races.

On switching to departure, you ask for VFR at 1,000'. They don't know what VFR is and tell you to climb to FL160. You insist that you're not pressurized and would really rather be below the clouds VFR than at 10,000 and IMC. Eventually a compromise is made, you'll fly at 4,000' a non IFR safe altitude, in cloud. @#$!. Request a climb to 7,000 because cumulogranite is a bitch. After a few minutes in the soup, you get your approach clearance to the closest runway to the little stretch of ocean you are aiming for. Shoot the VOR approach, warn your copilot that with a 50kt tailwind, shit happens a lot faster than normal, he of course ignores you as you come in high and hot. Miraculously you break out at 1500, can even see your destination. down you go.

Flying over the harbor you ask your F/O what his plan is, and point out subtle hints as to what the wind is doing: All the boats are facing one direction, there are streaks of foam in the water, white caps, and of course the flags all pointing opposite the boats. Naturally your F/O decides that the straight in with a 20kt tailwind is the best option. You very tactfully shoot down his decision and coach him step by step through what should have been an obvious choice. Take the headwind. After bouncing 4 or 5 times, it's time to end the rodeo. "I have control", they don't let go. Firmly you snack their hand and take control, bringing it to a nice stop somewhere in the harbor and ask for gear down so you can ramp it. You've lost faith in the F/O for the day and decide you should probably be the one to weave it between the ferry and the concrete rises on the side of the ramp. Parking is tight and you make it in with applause from the back... they don't know those front wheels castor. Parking break on, condition lever off, feather, battery off, and to the back to unload the passengers. They all thank you for their first flight in a sea plane. The receptionists bring out orange juice in champaigne glasses for you and the guest to drink and you walk them to the office. Now it's time for a 5 hours nap before repeating the process on the way home.

2) It's your first busy day as a float pilot, it's camp change day. You wake up at 4am to preflight the aircraft, thankfully you fueled it the night before. Wait for sunrise, and at 5:01am you're airborne for your first of 17 legs that day. She leaps into the air, mostly because you only have 18 gallons of gas on, 5 to get there, 5 to get back, and 8 reserve. Min Fuel in ops normal, because American fisherman are fat. Proper Fat. You get to the camp, and start loading all of their shit. Thankfully they are out of beer. 4 "large" men and all their gear barely fit into your 206, but rest assured they are 205lbs each... it might be off. The floats don't look that sunk. well maybe a little. @#$!, who are you kidding, they're way low. It's a big lake, and with standard weights, your at gross... might as well try.

She gets off the water.... eventually. Climbs like a European Swallow carrying a coconut. All the fisherman are joking about your age: "How old are you?" or "are you sure you're old enough to do this", why is it company policy to be clean shaven... you look 12. You seriously tell them this is your first time, and they all laugh thinking "he's done this thousands of times, despite looking like a freshman in high school". On approach you realize that you've done it. You're not working the dock or ramp, you're not flipping buggers and your making a whopping 1500 a month TO FLY A FREAKING FLOAT PLANE. Of course while thinking this you pancake it onto the glassy water and bounce 10 feet in the air, which leads to more bouncing, and you scaring the shit out of yourself. Nervous laugh, "6 landings for the price of one today!" you exclaim, trying to hide your shame. Laughter all around.

Pulling up to the dock, you shut down a little too early, and don't quite make it.... quickly grab the paddle to make it. A few strokes and you're at the dock, proud of your first succesful commercial float flight. Unloading the passengers one of the fisherman slips you a tip. You're certain it's a fifty, because he said to buy something nice with it. After they've left, you uncrumple the bills... Three US dollars. %*^(# &%*#(# %$*($# #(*%&#. One down. seventeen to go.

3) You wake up in a panic, it's 6:32, SUPER IMPORTANT CHARTER TODAY AND YOU'RE LATE, Nope, just your first day off in 42, Pavlov can go F*** himself.

Float flying is the most fun you'll have in an airplane, pick the right gigs and it can pay pretty well on top of that. It can also be the most stressful and nerve wracking flying out there. I'd do it all again in a heart beat.

E
---------- ADS -----------
  

jspitfire
Rank 4
Rank 4
Posts: 288
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 12:10 pm
Location: North of 60
Contact:

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by jspitfire » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:03 pm

esp803 wrote:Depends on the company, and the season, and the location... but here are a few examples of typical days:

1) Wake up at six am, walk over to a local restaurant for a quick bite to eat. It turns out eating at a restaurant is cheaper than cooking for yourself in this local. At about 0730 your driver pulls up with the F/O already in the vehicle. It's a 30 minutes drive to the airport that you are departing from (amphib floats), and you spend the time quizzing the F/O on systems, weather, emergencies and last nights conquests. After arriving at the airport you head up to the office to check the manifest, grab your flight plans, and flirt with your office staff. From there you head down to security to get to your airplane, you ...
E
I like #1. Except let my copilot do a water landing!? Fat chance, they scare me enough on the runway.

My day involves showing up at 0600 and having a coffee for 20 mins while I take a look at the weather. The dockhand has already pumped the floats, so I walk down for a walk-around and start 'er up to warm up the engine. The dockhand loads the bags,and I load the passengers. Off we go, and when I get to my next spot there's a dockhand to catch me and tie me up. He unloads the bags, refuels, and loads the next bags. I come down with passengers and am off again. Same thing happens at the other end, then I sit for 2 hours and surf avcanada and enjoy another coffee. And repeat a few more times, and you're done!
---------- ADS -----------
  

User avatar
Rudder Bug
Rank 10
Rank 10
Posts: 2735
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2005 11:09 pm
Location: Right seat but I own the seat

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by Rudder Bug » Wed Nov 25, 2015 6:28 am

Vern wrote:Wake up at 4:30am for a 5am charter. Hopefully I fueled the plane and got it ready the night before or the dockhand did it. Load up drums of fuel, propane, groceries or whatever. Fly to the lodge, unload. Install passenger seats, load up and go. Repeat 4 or 5 times a day. At least once a day there will be a flight where I have to go to a camp with the dockhand and cut firewood, cut the grass or fix something. Finish up an hour or so before sunset, have a beer on the dock with the crew, get something to eat and go to bed.

That's my typical day in June or July. 14 hour duty days and coming very close to flight time limits are the norm. I love it but it isn't easy.
This is pretty close to the perfect description of my summers, Vern!

I love it. In August, things slow down, you got time to go fishing or build nice things around, days are getting shorter, Midnight Sun fading out. Then, September hits and you get as busy as you were in June and July but this time for moose hunting. You've got to run, do quick turnarounds to get done before dark. After supper, enjoy the northern lights and the stars.

RB
---------- ADS -----------
  
Flying an aircraft and building a guitar are two things that are easy to do bad and difficult to do right

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yd_QppdGks

User avatar
C-FDPB
Rank 2
Rank 2
Posts: 84
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:52 am

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by C-FDPB » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:34 am

Wake up at 0600. Head down to the lodge and have 3 cups of coffee during the morning debrief. Head down to the plane and fuel up or pump the floats if the dockhand is still in bed. Warm up, load up, get the turkeys on and go. Give the guests a run around of the camp. Load the outgoing group and repeat until maybe 4-5 on a normal fly in day. Have a nap. Maybe do some fishing. Bbq and have a cold one or two and hit the hay. Non fly in days are hauling propane gas and camp supplies. Often doing camp upkeep. Fixing decks, docks, screens that the Bears love to rip through, propane appliances and sometimes a bit of outboard motor work. Usually have a dockhand on these trips. That's about that. Love every minute.

DPB
---------- ADS -----------
  

MDTS
Rank 1
Rank 1
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:17 am

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by MDTS » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:15 pm

ESP803 That was a rather well written response! And I applaud you for it! I truly makes me excited to pursue this path! Reading that was almost like reading a book. I was smiling the whole time and probably looked ridiculous. Thanks for the responses gentlemen/women. Cannot wait to start float flying!
---------- ADS -----------
  

User avatar
Rookie50
Rank (9)
Rank (9)
Posts: 1819
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:00 am
Location: Clear of the Active.

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by Rookie50 » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:29 pm

esp803 wrote:Depends on the company, and the season, and the location... but here are a few examples of typical days:

1) Wake up at six am, walk over to a local restaurant for a quick bite to eat. It turns out eating at a restaurant is cheaper than cooking for yourself in this local. At about 0730 your driver pulls up with the F/O already in the vehicle. It's a 30 minutes drive to the airport that you are departing from (amphib floats), and you spend the time quizzing the F/O on systems, weather, emergencies and last nights conquests. After arriving at the airport you head up to the office to check the manifest, grab your flight plans, and flirt with your office staff. From there you head down to security to get to your airplane, you take your leatherman off and set it next to the metal detector with your coffee and walk through. You have 4 bars on and nobody questions what you have just done. Knife back on belt and coffee in hand you say hello to the x-ray watcher as he chuckles at the fact that you are also in shorts and sandals with those bars. Swinging by the national flight planning office on your way to the airplane you file your flight plan and get your weather package. Hot as hell. Going to be bumpy.

Get to the airplane, do a walk around, watch your F/O do a walk around and double check his fuel calculations. Now wait for the passengers to arrive, if all has gone well they should be there in 10 minutes... typically though things drag on a bit and an hour and a half late the passengers show up in an airport bus. Shit, there is two more than you were expecting. Update all the paperwork in chicken scratch. Call for push back and engine start. Denied. Military is out flying and it's going to be 30 minutes. Try to explain to ground that you need your engine for the A/C and you do not have an APU. Confusion over the complex English. First officer tries to explain in the local tongue. Denied. 30 minutes later, call again for push and start, now soaking in sweat. Finally... AC.... Decide to let the F/O get the first leg to give him a water landing, a bold move on a hot day, but they need to learn eventually. As he taxis you start doing your paper work. Get told to hold short for a 777, 2 787's, and a 747, all of whom haven't pushed back yet... 45 minutes later you are number 1. Finally get your take off clearance, and you're off to the races.

On switching to departure, you ask for VFR at 1,000'. They don't know what VFR is and tell you to climb to FL160. You insist that you're not pressurized and would really rather be below the clouds VFR than at 10,000 and IMC. Eventually a compromise is made, you'll fly at 4,000' a non IFR safe altitude, in cloud. @#$!. Request a climb to 7,000 because cumulogranite is a bitch. After a few minutes in the soup, you get your approach clearance to the closest runway to the little stretch of ocean you are aiming for. Shoot the VOR approach, warn your copilot that with a 50kt tailwind, shit happens a lot faster than normal, he of course ignores you as you come in high and hot. Miraculously you break out at 1500, can even see your destination. down you go.

Flying over the harbor you ask your F/O what his plan is, and point out subtle hints as to what the wind is doing: All the boats are facing one direction, there are streaks of foam in the water, white caps, and of course the flags all pointing opposite the boats. Naturally your F/O decides that the straight in with a 20kt tailwind is the best option. You very tactfully shoot down his decision and coach him step by step through what should have been an obvious choice. Take the headwind. After bouncing 4 or 5 times, it's time to end the rodeo. "I have control", they don't let go. Firmly you snack their hand and take control, bringing it to a nice stop somewhere in the harbor and ask for gear down so you can ramp it. You've lost faith in the F/O for the day and decide you should probably be the one to weave it between the ferry and the concrete rises on the side of the ramp. Parking is tight and you make it in with applause from the back... they don't know those front wheels castor. Parking break on, condition lever off, feather, battery off, and to the back to unload the passengers. They all thank you for their first flight in a sea plane. The receptionists bring out orange juice in champaigne glasses for you and the guest to drink and you walk them to the office. Now it's time for a 5 hours nap before repeating the process on the way home.

2) It's your first busy day as a float pilot, it's camp change day. You wake up at 4am to preflight the aircraft, thankfully you fueled it the night before. Wait for sunrise, and at 5:01am you're airborne for your first of 17 legs that day. She leaps into the air, mostly because you only have 18 gallons of gas on, 5 to get there, 5 to get back, and 8 reserve. Min Fuel in ops normal, because American fisherman are fat. Proper Fat. You get to the camp, and start loading all of their shit. Thankfully they are out of beer. 4 "large" men and all their gear barely fit into your 206, but rest assured they are 205lbs each... it might be off. The floats don't look that sunk. well maybe a little. @#$!, who are you kidding, they're way low. It's a big lake, and with standard weights, your at gross... might as well try.

She gets off the water.... eventually. Climbs like a European Swallow carrying a coconut. All the fisherman are joking about your age: "How old are you?" or "are you sure you're old enough to do this", why is it company policy to be clean shaven... you look 12. You seriously tell them this is your first time, and they all laugh thinking "he's done this thousands of times, despite looking like a freshman in high school". On approach you realize that you've done it. You're not working the dock or ramp, you're not flipping buggers and your making a whopping 1500 a month TO FLY A FREAKING FLOAT PLANE. Of course while thinking this you pancake it onto the glassy water and bounce 10 feet in the air, which leads to more bouncing, and you scaring the shit out of yourself. Nervous laugh, "6 landings for the price of one today!" you exclaim, trying to hide your shame. Laughter all around.

Pulling up to the dock, you shut down a little too early, and don't quite make it.... quickly grab the paddle to make it. A few strokes and you're at the dock, proud of your first succesful commercial float flight. Unloading the passengers one of the fisherman slips you a tip. You're certain it's a fifty, because he said to buy something nice with it. After they've left, you uncrumple the bills... Three US dollars. %*^(# &%*#(# %$*($# #(*%&#. One down. seventeen to go.

3) You wake up in a panic, it's 6:32, SUPER IMPORTANT CHARTER TODAY AND YOU'RE LATE, Nope, just your first day off in 42, Pavlov can go F*** himself.

Float flying is the most fun you'll have in an airplane, pick the right gigs and it can pay pretty well on top of that. It can also be the most stressful and nerve wracking flying out there. I'd do it all again in a heart beat.

E
Cool story, E. I could easily see it and I don't fly floats.

Some of you should write a book.
---------- ADS -----------
  

esp803

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by esp803 » Sat Nov 28, 2015 6:07 pm

Feed me a few pints and I'll tell the really exciting (embarrassing) stories.

E
---------- ADS -----------
  

MDTS
Rank 1
Rank 1
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:17 am

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by MDTS » Sat Nov 28, 2015 6:53 pm

If I'm ever in your part of the woods (wherever that may be) I would defiantly do that!
---------- ADS -----------
  

JBI
Rank 8
Rank 8
Posts: 858
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2004 11:21 am
Location: YYZ / LGA

Re: Life of a Float Pilot

Post by JBI » Sun Nov 29, 2015 10:13 am

Great post esp803 - love it when folks on here provide in depth answers and experiences.
---------- ADS -----------
  

Post Reply

Return to “General Comments”