Seaplanes and Mussels

The front of a seaplane from the inside of the cokpit. The propeller is a blur. Lake Powell and sandstone cliffs lie ahead.

NPS Photo


The following guidelines to prevent the spread of invasive species with seaplanes are from


Seaplanes can transport aquatic hitchhiker species between water bodies on their floats. It is important to clean the aircraft and remove all plant fragments or attached mussels before traveling, rather than after landing in new waters. Pilots are advised to include these steps into their flight operations. As always, safety is the first priority when using the guidelines.

Before entering the aircraft:

· Inspect/remove plants from floats, wires or cables, and water rudders;

· In infested water, check transom, bottom, chine, wheel wells, and float step area.

· Pump water from floats.

· Use these methods to kill aquatic hitchhiker species:

- Wash/spray floats with hot or high-pressure water;

- Dry for 5 days.

Before takeoff:

· Do not taxi through heavy aquatic plant growth prior to takeoff;

· Raise and lower water rudders to clear off plants, minimize cable stretch and improve steering effectiveness.

After takeoff

· Raise/lower water rudders several times to free aquatic plant fragments while over the waters you are leaving or land;

· If aquatic plants remain visible on the plane, return and remove them.

Storage or Mooring

· Remove aircraft from the water and allow parts to dry. Summer temperatures will kill adult zebra mussels (longer time is required for cool, humid weather);

· Aircraft moored for extended periods may have mussels attached and should be cleaned regularly. In remote locations, zebra mussels or other aquatic hitchhiker species may be present. If no cleaning equipment is available, the best prevention option is to hand-clean the submerged floats with a scrub brush and to physically remove any attached life.


When leaving Lake Powell for areas not known to be infested with quagga mussels, seaplane pilots should follow the detailed guidelines from the Seaplane Pilots Association to avoid spreading quagga mussels.

Last updated: February 26, 2016

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