This study aimed to assess and analyze all historical National Transportation Safety Board accident reports since 1982. For analysis, reports were bisected into seaplane (float, amphibian, and hull) and non-seaplane groups. Findings showed that there is a deficiency in the level of available detail on the seaplane fleet and cadre of seaplane pilots in the U.S. During the most recent ten years of complete data (2012-2021) showed a negative trend in all accidents and fatal accidents, although only the latter being statistically convincing. During this timeframe, seaplane accident pilots had significantly higher total time and age than other groups (non-seaplane accident and non-accident). Although practically (not statistically) significant, seaplane accident pilots had significantly more flight time in type than non-seaplane accident pilots. In both periods, the top accidents were de Havilland, Cessna, and Piper. Accident event sequences showed higher numbers of accidents during takeoffs among seaplanes. A comparison of the estimated seaplane accident rate per 100,000 hours vs. that of non-seaplanes was found not to be significantly different. This provides further evidence that the assumption that seaplanes are involved in more accidents is simply anecdotal, although more research is required for a conclusive answer. Between 1982 and 2021, considerable gains in seaplane safety were noted, with decreases in both total and fatal accidents. From this larger dataset, an assessment of seaplane and non-seaplane accident pilot time in type showed that seaplane pilots have significantly lower hours. The top aircraft makes were virtually unchanged across timeframes, with the top slots still going to de Havilland, Cessna, and Piper. In summary, while seaplane operations have consistently become safer over time, specific areas continue to cause an unacceptable loss of aircraft and lives. The findings of this study will hopefully help guide efforts to continue to improve seaplane safety and provide critical insights for the seaplane pilot community.


This study was partially funded by a generous gift to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation



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