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Aircraft that can land, float, and take off on water. The first practical seaplanes were built and flown in 1911–12 by Glenn H. Curtiss, who developed both the float seaplane, essentially a land plane with pontoons instead of landing wheels, and the flying boat, a boatlike plane that combined a main float and fuselage in a single body. A retractable landing wheel was later added to create an amphibian aircraft. By the late 1920s seaplanes held the speed and range records for aircraft. During the 1940s their utility diminished with the building of long-range land-based airplanes, new airports, and aircraft carriers.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on seaplane, visit Britannica.com.