Can A Private Pilot Fly Over Water?

Making the distinction between what does and doesn’t constitute a private pilot is increasingly difficult in a world where air travel is seen as being a necessity rather than a luxury.

Is a private pilot someone who flies for a corporation, or is in the employ of an individual and available to fly them to where they want to go at the drop of a dime? Or does the less than inclusive term refer solely to someone who flies purely for their own pleasure and personal reasons?

Whatever the term actually covers or means, any civilian pilot with a license is governed by the same laws regarding how, when, and where they can fly, which means that any pilot, private or otherwise can fly over water. 

However, there are specific rules and guidelines set by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) governing flying over water, and all private pilots if they wish to fly over a large body of water need to follow them and if at all possible, abide by them.

If a private pilot is going to fly over water they need to ensure that there are enough life jackets and inflatable rafts for all their crew and passengers, and failure to do so can result in prosecution or a fine from the FAA.

If a pilot is going to fly over water, they should also file a flight plan regardless of whether they’re planning on flying VFR (Visual Flight Rules) or IFR (Instrument Flight Rules), in case anything does end up happening to the flight.

They should also ensure that they have a maximum load of fuel and that the amount of fuel in the airplane’s tank is more than sufficient to get them where they need to go, and that there is enough spare capacity to adequately deal with any emergency situation that they may encounter. 

Most experienced pirate pilots also recommend that any smaller flight, or airplane, always stays within sight of land while flying and that the airplane being flown has sufficient height to be able to glide back to land should its engines fail.

And last but not least, any private pilot flying over water should attempt to stay in regular contact with their nearest ATC (Air Traffic Control) at all times, and speak to them at frequent intervals. 

While the only legal requirement for private pilots flying over water is the provision of onboard safety equipment, and the other measures are merely guidelines that they’re expected to follow, any pilot who has flown over a large body of water, whether commercial or private, will almost always ensure that all of the conditions are implemented

Can A Single Engine Plane Fly Over Water?

Any airplane providing it can legally fly, can fly over water.  The first transatlantic flight made in a single-engine aircraft was made in nineteen twenty-seven by Charles Lindbergh, which proved that it was possible to successfully fly a single-engine aircraft over one of the largest bodies of water in the world. 

However, while it can be done, most pilots don’t like to fly single-engine aircraft over large bodies of water because of the risk that it entails. The general rule of aviation is that a single-engine airplane while being flown over water should be flown at a height that is sufficient for it to be able to glide back to land if the engine does fail.

Therefore the larger the body of water that an airplane is being flown over, the higher it would need to fly in order to provide the gliding distance needed, and most, non-military single-engined aircraft are incapable of attaining the sort of height needed to safely make it back to land should something untoward happen to the aircraft’s engine. 

Every multi-engined aircraft is designed to be able to keep flying if one or more of its engines fail, which makes them an infinitely safer way to fly over oceans and seas than a single-engine airplane, and it’s also the reason why most pilots prefer to fly them over long distances.

No pilot ever wants to ditch their aircraft in the middle of the ocean if they can avoid it, and the likelihood of that happening in a single-engine aircraft is far higher than it is in a multi-engine aircraft. 

Can You Fly VFR Over The Ocean? 

Surprisingly, you can fly VFR over the ocean and a lot of military pilots who are based on naval carriers can, and do fly VFR (Visual Flight Rules) while on active duty.

The rules governing VFR flight over any international body of water, or ocean are the same for both military and civilian pilots, which means that any, and all pilots, can fly VFR over any ocean. 

However, while it is legal to fly VFR over the ocean, it might not be legal to do so in the airspace of the country that you are flying to, so it is always worth checking the rules and regulations concerning VFR flight in your eventual destination before you leave and then filing an appropriate, whether that needs to be VFR or IFR, flight plan.