Can a Seaplane Hull Work on Snow?

Homebuilt Aircraft & Kit Plane Forum

Help Support Homebuilt Aircraft & Kit Plane Forum:

sanman

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2021
Messages
267
Can a seaplane hull land on snow and take off from it?

I'm not talking about floats here -- I'm talking about an actual hull, like a seaplane has. Has anybody ever tried anything like this?

What are the issues and challenges here?

Shouldn't the broader surface of a hull work better for snow, while also being more streamlined and reducing the aerodynamic drag compared to floats?
 

Martin W

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 14, 2021
Messages
209
Would have to be deep snow that the hull could sink a couple of feet into .... just like on water .... 1/3 or so of the hull is submerged keeping it upright and stable.

Actual snowplanes only need a couple of slender skis that work wonderfully

sidenote ... different topic but there are videos of a Cessna on floats landing on wet grass .... worked fine
 

jedi

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2009
Messages
3,500
Location
Sahuarita Arizona, Renton Washington, USA
The book about the history of Kenmore Air Harbor has photos of their Sea Bee on the snow fields in the Olympic National Park probably dating back to the late 50's IIRC.

I am quite certain that there are numerous examples of seaplanes landing in snow. I imagine there are limitations. One of the bigger issues would be getting frozen in the snow. I think it is common to park ski planes on 2x4s overnight in AK.

My ski experience is very limited.

I would think a Sea Bee could be landed gear up on smooth ice but do not understand why you would do that. Landing on the gear would make more sense to me. If there were no wheels the hull should work but there would be no give. Landing and the surface better be smooth.

I agree with the float plane landings on wet grass but I watched a L-19 on floats come to a stop inverted an a grass landing. No details, no guarantees. I expect some headwind would help.
 
Last edited:

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
16,082
Location
Port Townsend WA
Not normal, but I watched a Beaver on floats land once on frozen Lake Hood in Alaska. (packed snow for ski-planes)
Single hull flying boats don’t normally land on fresh deep powder snow in the mountains. Snow is usually packed in the low lands and lakes where wheels or skis work best.
 

Riggerrob

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2014
Messages
2,958
Location
Canada
Many flying boats have been landed on snow.
But expect some erosion on the keel.
That is why many floatplanes and flying-boats have extra sacrificial strips under their keels.
 

Martin W

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 14, 2021
Messages
209
Couple years ago I watched a video .... not sure if I got this right but went something like this ....

Seaplane ... boat hull type ... about 6-10 passenger .... late in the season landed on a lake ... froze overnight ... winter set in .... once Ice was thick enough a crew with winches and logs pulled it up out of the ice .... warmed it up , melted the ice from the hull .... and were able to fly it off the lake .

.
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
16,082
Location
Port Townsend WA
Shouldn't the broader surface of a hull work better for snow, while also being more streamlined and reducing the aerodynamic drag compared to floats?
No. Because the hull isn’t broad enough and won’t help support the airplane. In the video the keel was riding on the hard surface grass with 4” inches of snow for lubrication. Loose snow density is 10 pounds per cubic foot. Water is 62 pounds per cubic foot or six times denser. So the hull would need six times the area for support to fly off 8 feet of fresh snow.
 

Jay Kempf

Curmudgeon in Training (CIT)
Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Messages
4,594
Location
Warren, VT USA
Every powder skier knows it doesn't work that way. Snow packs while you "float" over it. Water doesn't. Apples and bananas.

If you stand on the lightest powder snow with a snow shoe you will only sink so deep. If you stand on water with the same snow shoe you go to the bottom.

One is a fluid. The other a low density trans solid, can melt when crushed, can act as a granular fluid for the purposes of analysis.

Water requires velocity to provide fluid pressure against the surface to provide lift. Snow requires only weight to pack the grains under the track however weight and velocity can create varying packing under the track. I have spent 5+ decades working on my velocity and weight balance in varying snow densities and hydration levels :) A modern powder ski is almost exactly the size and shape of a modern water ski. Maybe the powder ski has a little more area but not much due to the different velocities at which they are typically used. But the velocity range overlaps quite a bit between the two sports.

So I think that powder and water skiing is a direct correlation to landing a boat hull on snow.

I would be much more worried about how the hull is constructed. If it is rigid enough with an adequate keel it should be adequate to not deform sitting on any snow. We sit them on Styrofoam for maintenance which has a similar density to stiff cold of groomed snow. If the hull is designed to take a hit from a submerged log and survive it will be fine on snow. Snow is much more abrasive than water so paint is not going to last long. But you can wax...
 

Riggerrob

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2014
Messages
2,958
Location
Canada
Can you stop in 8 feet of powder and start again?

This reminds us of a tale told by an old British Columbia floatplane pilot. He landed his floatplane (Cessna?) on a high mountain lake that had frozen solid. He landed the day after a heavy snow storm that dropped plenty of dry powder snow. As he stepped off a float, he sank chest deep in the snow. It took him more than an hour to "walk" the short distance to a log cabin. Fortunately the cabin had a stove and enough canned food for supper. The next morning, he shoved some pine boughs under the floats and flew away.
Hah!
Hah!
 

Jay Kempf

Curmudgeon in Training (CIT)
Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Messages
4,594
Location
Warren, VT USA
Can you stop in 8 feet of powder and start again?
You could land in it just fine and it might sink at the end of the landing run but probably not unless it snowed at -40F and no humidity. It would depend on the powder. Snowmobiles stop and the occupant gets off and goes up to their neck in light pow.

People have been using ski planes for dropping skiers off up high for a long time. I am not sure how or if they prep runways.

If you had so much snow you couldn't move in it you couldn't take off anyway so you probably wouldn't be able to find out if you could land and takeoff again. But you woudn't hurt the airplane trying. You might have to dig it out. If you could get it moving you would be able to takeoff. The first Skidoos were not tracked. They were 3 skis (old aircraft fuselages) with a prop on the back. Was quite a rage for a while.
 
Joined
Feb 17, 2014
Messages
513
Location
Grantham, NH
When Full Lotus first came out with their inflatable floats, they got together with Dick Wagner (WagAero) and he put his clipped wing Cubby (the yellow & green one) on a straight set. Just to prove how tough, and slippery, the bottoms are, he operated off grass, snow, ice, and water on them with no issues.
STORY TIME: There was a PBY-5 patrolling in the great Northwest during WWII that found itself flying IFR, in the soup. Suddenly, the navigator realized they were headed for a mountain range and ordered a full power climb at max climb rate. Then the altimeters and ASIs stopped working, even with the alternate static source. They performed a chandelle, but felt no g force, nor did the compass turn. A waist gunner, looking out the aft bubble, reported through the intercom that there was what appeared to be an outcropping of rock just beyond a wingtip. They had initiated the climb at just the right moment, at just the right angle, to softly mush into the deep snow, just below the ridge, and come to a stop without feeling it. I never heard the rest of the story, how they got back to base, if they’d recovered the Catalina, or parts from it.
 

Aviacs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2019
Messages
439
It would depend on the powder. Snowmobiles stop and the occupant gets off and goes up to their neck in light pow

Thread drift..... :)

Water vs snow

Elmira used to have snowmobile racing on the town pond in the summer.
Sled races on water are quite popular in some areas.
 
Top