P. Edronkin

Seaplanes Versus Other Transports



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It is hard to find seaplanes, boatplanes or amphibians in certain regions of the world, even when and where it would be convenient to have one of these aircraft at hand. These machines can operate from water or land, providing a form of transportation, which is safe, flexible and relatively inexpensive.

The most important advantage that these machines have (I shall refer to all of them as boatplanes, despite the fact that there are some differences indeed between these three types of planes) against other means is that they can fly into remote areas with no preparation at all, like dense jungles or rain forests, and land almost anywhere. They don't really need runways, piers or roads and are far more cheaper than helicopters.

Nevertheless, boatplanes are seldom used in many parts of the world; this is due in part to the high cost of acquisition and complexity of operation of any aircraft, but also, it depends on a negative perception that the public has, regarding them as noisy, dangerous and contaminating.

However, this is a myth not dispelled mainly due to the political overtones of the issue, but we shall see why such a belief is incorrect.

Regarding noise, it is true that aviation engines produce it, but a 90HP aircraft engine is not really much noisier than a 300HP truck motor. Moreover: once an aeroplane is sufficiently high in the air, little noise is heard on the ground, while propelled boats and road vehicles make in a similar amount of time much noise which can't be avoided at all at the ground. Flight levels can be established and modified, while land and water vehicles have only one (noisy) choice.

Turbines are indeed noisy, but there are very few boatplanes that use them; most use internal-combustion engines which are very similar to those used in cars. The level of noise that these engines produce is quite inferior to that of turbines. Again, this could be regulated, if nothing else.

Then, which is noisier, really?

Regarding contamination, boats - for instance - have their propulsion mechanisms in contact with the water all the time, and road vehicles have their rubber wheels in touch with the ground as they go and as they stop. Boatplanes touch the water or the ground just while they remain in the ground, and their engines never get in contact with the soil or water. For any given distance, land or water vehicles contaminate the soil much more than aircraft.

Safety and general controls over aircraft are much more frequent, better and stringent than in the case of land and water vehicles; anti-contamination and noise reduction procedures and rules can be much more easily enforced in the case of aircraft and what's more: the kind of land and water vehicles found at isolated regions is usually very bad, malfunctions and tear are more frequent due to the inability of their owners to receive spare parts or take their vehicles to a big city to repair them. Not so in the case of aircraft for which the same trip may be just a short hop.

It has also been said that boatplanes spoil the view of tourists; that they are aesthetically aggravating. Not more than electrical wires, boats, buses and other landmarks of civilisation. Tourists never go to absolutely pristine areas (that is left to explorers), and probably reached any given landscape travelling by air at some point, so one boatplane more or less doesn't really count for them.

It is true that we have to care for our environment, but that should not be used as an excuse to impede things to take place and refuse all kinds of progress. There is not a single valid reason to prefer a muddy truck or all-terrain vehicle (by the way, they destroy the soil as they roll over it) to take people or cargo to a distant place over an aircraft.

Believing that boatplanes are 'rich brat toys' is also wrong: take Alaska, for example, where almost one third of its population is trained to actually fly aircraft. They use boatplanes as trucks, not as some sort of expensive weekend amusement. These are workhorses, actually.

As for speed, there is really no possible comparison: boatplanes, as any aircraft, are much faster. Quite a bonus in the event of an emergency in an isolated spot, somewhere.

And finally, boatplanes bring to many people dreams of adventure; their use has in reality a positive impact on areas where outdoor and adventure activities are under development. Boatplanes have a kind of glamour that other vehicles don't, even other types of aircraft.

And if not, why is then that they appear so frequently on adventure movies?




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