Invention of the floatplane

I wonder if more inventions were born out of economic or other necessity (toilet paper?), out of the right combination of laziness with intelligence (TV remote), by mistake (the slinky) or out of the sheer drive to greatness (as would apply to most of aviation related inventions, I would assume). That would be a nice topic for a dissertation on history for someone out there, wouldn’t it? Although I assume the mix of historical, technical and psychological knowledge for such a paper would pose a challenge. Not even talking about how to collect and sort the necessary data.

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4 comments on “Invention of the floatplane
  1. JPKalishek says:

    wasn’t Bell’s first attempt at powered flight a float plane or flying boat? ***wanders off***
    ***wanders back***
    Seems I am conflating his HP4 Hydrofoil with whatever attempt at powered flight I recall trying to use iirc a steam engine, and floats. I vaguely recall some think it could have flown if it wasn’t on water and the drag it imparts

  2. Quill says:

    I believe floatplanes were right with landplanes from the very origins of powered flight, like JPKalishek said I seem to recall that there were attempts at powered floatplanes before the Wright Brothers succeeded in 1903. I could imagine the idea could have been inspired by seeing waterfowl taking off and landing on water. In coastal areas speedboats were probably a faster way to travel than a car on the roads of the time, which likewise was true of a lack of runways – water is level, usually flat, wide, generally little to run into, a much more available and predictable landing surface before runways were common. Likewise, I think this is why they are less popular than they used to be, in general.

  3. Johsua says:

    Bell created a successful aircraft, the June Bug, and attempted to convert it to a float plane. The new aircraft, renamed the Loon, failed to fly due to deficiencies in the floats. No steam powered aircraft could come close to flight due to weight but that didn’t stop many inventors from trying.

    The Langley Aerodrome is the first notable sea plane, but it wasn’t originally so. It was intended to be catapulted from a boat. Curtiss modified it on floats in an attempt to prove that Langley, not the Wrights, had not invented flight and therefore he was not infringing on patent rights.

    I believe the popularity of early sea planes stems from the lack of airports available at the time. This was a driving force for sea plane development until the late 40s.

  4. Bernd says:

    Joshua, although few and far between, there have been successful steam-powered airplanes. It is inefficient and impractical, but it is not true to say that “No steam powered aircraft could come close to flight due to weight”.

    Here’s probably the most practical example: and

    Possibly the only airplane where reverse thrust was achieved by actually reversing the direction of rotation of the propeller instead of changing the blade angle.

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