A flying boat is a fixed-wingedseaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water, that has no type of landing gear to allow operation on land. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections (called sponsons) from the fuselage. Flying boats were some of the largest aircraft of the first half of the 20th century, exceeded in size only by bombers developed during World War II. Their advantage lay in using water instead of expensive land-based runways, making them the basis for international airlines in the interwar period. They were also commonly used for maritime patrol and air-sea rescue.
Their use gradually tailed off after World War II, partially because of the investments in airports during the war. In the 21st century, flying boats maintain a few niche uses, such as for dropping water on forest fires, air transport around archipelagos, and access to undeveloped or roadless areas. Many modern seaplane variants, whether float or flying boat types, are convertible amphibian aircraft where either landing gear or flotation modes may be used to land and take off.
The shape of the Short Empire, a British flying boat of the 1930s was a harbinger of the shape of 20th century aircraft yet to come. Today, however, true flying boats have largely been replaced by seaplanes with floats and amphibian aircraft with wheels. The Beriev Be-200 twin-jet amphibious aircraft has been one of the closest "living" descendants of the earlier flying boats, along with the larger amphibious planes used for fighting forest fires. There are also several experimental/kit amphibians such as the Volmer Sportsman, Quikkit Glass Goose, Airmax Sea Max, Aeroprakt A-24, and Seawind 300C.