That's what the manuals all say.
If you’re going to put your flying machine down on
the water, flat water is useful. Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed,
Tupolev; they all have their version of just how it's done.
And yes Mildred, ditching checklists are in all the aircraft
operating manuals. They say things like:
on the open ocean land with the swells. Avoid the aircraft
hitting the top of one, then slamming down into the trough
Good to know.
"Generally, using the
flaps reduces the speed and reduces the pitch angle, leaving
less chance of striking the rear fuselage first and slamming
the nose down into the water".
I think I'll use flaps.
up is recommended".
The FAA even describes the safety
requirements in the event of a ditching: (Federal Aviation
Regulation Part 25, Section 801) "It must be shown
that, under reasonably probable water conditions, flotation
time and trim of the airplane will allow the occupants
to leave the airplane and enter the life rafts required
by 25.1415. Appropriate allowances must be made for probable
structural damage and leakage"
Wow. Information. Proceedures.
Advice. That's all great but it looks to me like 'most'
of the modern day ditchings have come as a sudden surprise
to everyone. Not much time to think it over. While airplanes
have been going 'in the drink' since 1903 or so, let's
just look at the airliner types from 1955 (the jet age).
1955 - March 26, 1955. Pan American Flight 845/26 a four-engined
Boeing 377 Stratocruiser named "Clipper United States" had
departed Portland International Airport on a flight to
Honolulu. The aircraft was 35 miles from the Oregon coast
when at 11:12 AM the No. 3 engine and propeller tore loose
from the wing causing the aircraft to become almost uncontrollable.
The aircraft was ditched and floated for twenty minutes
before sinking in 5000 feet of water. After an orderly
evacuation the survivors spent two hours aboard rafts and
slides before the USS Bayfield arrived on the scene to
1956 - April 2,
1956. North West Orient Airlines Flight 2, a Boeing Stratocruiser,
ditched into Puget Sound shortly after an 8 AM takeoff
from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac).
As the flaps were retracted the aircraft then began rolling
to the left and buffeting uncontrollably. Loosing altitude
and with little control over their aircraft, they ditched
in the 430 foot deep, freezing waters of Puget Sound. Their
Mayday was heard by a Coast Guard vessel and an Air Force
amphibious Grumman Albatross, both of which raced to assist.
The aircraft was landed smoothly but the tail section broke
off and it took on water quickly. All aboard departed safely
using the seat cushions as flotation devices. The Air Force
Grumman landed less than ten minutes after the ditching
and launched life rafts. Not all were able to reach them
and many remained in the freezing waters until rescued
less than thirty minutes later by the Coast Guard vessel.
Four passengers and one male flight attendant apparently
succumbed to hypothermia and were not recovered. The Stratocruiser
sank 15 minutes after the ditching.
1956 - 16 October, 1956. Possibly
the most anticipated and documented ditching ever. Pan
American Flight 943, another Boeing 377 Stratocruiser "Sovereign
of the Skies", enroute from Honolulu to San Francisco
ditched in the Pacific. Soon after passing the 'point of
no return' (mid ocean) the number 1 engine seized, but
the propeller would not feather thus causing excessive
drag. With climb power on the remaining three engines,
the number four engine began to backfire and power began
to drop off. Calculating the additional fuel flow due to
drag, the crew determined there was insufficient fuel to
reach San Francisco. The plane was flown to Ocean Station
November, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter 'Pontchartrain',
and circled there until daylight. Aware of the Pan Am Flight
845/26 incident the year before, in which a 377's tail
section had broken off in a water landing, the purser cleared
passengers from the back of the plane. At 5:40 AM the cutter
laid out a foam path to aid the captain's depth perception.
(Determining your actual height above water or desert is
very difficult due to the lack of reference).
The plane touched down at 6:15, at 90 knots
with full flaps and landing gear retracted.
The tail broke off but all 31 on board survived the ditching.
Life rafts were deployed and all were
rescued by the Coast Guard.
sank in less than 20 minutes at 6:35.
In October 1963, an Aeroflot Tu124 was on a flight
from Estonia to Moscow when a landing gear problem led
to a diversion to Leningrad. The aircraft entered holding
while the crew sorted out their gear problems. Then, 13
miles from Leningrad airport, the aircraft ran out of fuel.
The crew managed to ditch the aircraft on the nearby Neva
River, narrowly missing a tugboat which then sped to the
floating airplane, cast a line and towed it to shallow
waters. All 52 aboard survived.
1966 - On the 4th of February 1966 an All Nippon Airways
727-100 descending to land at Tokyo's Haneda Airport (HND)
ditched short of the airport, broke apart and sank with
all 133 aboard.
One Of JAL's
stretched DC-8's, 'Shiga.' landed 2 miles short of the
runway at San Francisco International Airport. The aircraft
touched down in water only 8 feet deep, and when the landing
gear settled into the mud, the water level was just at
the bottom of the passenger doors. So smoothly did the
aircraft land on and settle in the water, that many of
the passengers accepted it as the expected normal landing.
There were no injuries. The aircraft was recovered, repaired,
and flown again.
1970 - On May 2, Antillean Airlines (ALM) Flight
980, a DC-9 leased from Overseas Airways, departed Kennedy
International nonstop to St. Maarten. After three attempted
approaches to St. Maarten in bad weather, the crew diverted
for St. Croix. Enroute the crew realized they were too
low on fuel to either make St Croix or too turn back St.
Maarten. They ditched the aircraft in Caribbean with only
40 of the 63 passengers surviving.
1972 - On
the 17th of July, 1972, a Tupolev Tu-134 approaching Moscow's
Moskva-Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO/UUEE), Russia ditched
in Moscow Channel after both engines flamed out on final
approach. The crew had forgotten to switch on the fuel
transfer pumps in time and starved the engines of fuel.
All aboard survived.
1978 - On the
8th of May, National Airlines Flight 193, a Boeing 727-235
en route from Miami to New Orleans, at night in low visibility
from fog, descending into Pensacola Regional Airport, impacted
Escambia Bay, sinking in 12 feet of water. A non-precision
approach to runway 25 was being used. While established
on the approach the ground proximity alarm sounded and
the first officer checked his altimeter. He read it as
1,500' and turned off the alarm. The flight data recorder
showed their actual altitude at this point was only 500'
and they failed to realize they had passed through the
minimum descent altitude. They touched down in Escambia
Bay. Three passengers drowned.
1980 - On 7 August 1980, a Tupolev 154B-1 operated
by Tarom Romanian Airlines ditched in the water, 1000 feet
short of the runway at Nouadhibou Airport (NDB/GQPP), Mauritania.
All aboard survived.
1980 - On
10 October 1980, a Sudan Air 707, newly purchased from
Air Lingus was being transferred from Ireland to Egypt.
The aircraft was inadvertently ditched on the Nile River
at Khartoum when the pilot mistook the moonlit river for
the nearby runway. Within two days the airplane had been
stripped bare by the locals.
1982 - On 9 February 1982, Japan Airlines
Flight 350, a stretched DC-8-61, from Fukuoka to Tokyo
was on approach to the airport when Captain Seiji Katagiri's
reversed the DC-8's inboard engines in a deliberate attempt
to destroy the aircraft. The First Officer and Flight Engineer
worked to restrain him and stop the aircrafts decent but
the DC-8 touched down in shallow water short of the runway
with a loss of 24 of 166 passengers and 8 crew. Captain
Katagiri was the first person on the rescue boat and, attempting
to avoid detection, claimed to rescuers that he was an
office worker. Captain Katagiri was later found not guilty
due to insanity.
1996 - 23 November, 1996, Ethiopian Air
Lines 767, having been hijacked by three men, ran out of
fuel off the coast of the Comoros Islands. The pilot had
been given clearance to land at Moroni Airport, Grand Comoro,
but he knew the plane would not reach it and tried to land
the plane in the water near the Galawa seaside resort.
The hijackers were struggling with the crew for the controls
when the aircraft impacted the water in a slight wing down
attitude. The pilot and copilot survived but the hijackers
did not, nor did 123 of the 175 passengers aboard.
A Boeing 707-351C of Trans
Arabian Air Transport departed Khartoum for a flight to
Mwanza. When they arrived there was no power at Mwanza
but there was 5 miles visibility. After holding for 10
minutes, the airport generator came on and the runway lights
went on. The first officer was flying a visual to runway
12. When well established on final the captain told the
f/o that he was too low. The captain took over control
and started a right turn when the aircraft bounced and
came to a halt in the middle of the lake.
2002 - 16 January, 2002, an Indonesian Airline (Guarda) Boeing
737-300 had both engines flame out in a descend through
rain clouds. Relights failed, the Captain set up a glide
at 240 knots and decided to ditch on a river, the only
clear spot in sight. The ditching was well executed and
the 737 came to a stop, floating near the side of the river.
One fatality, a stewardess who drowned in the 6 foot deep
2005 - August
6, 2005, Tuninter Air ATR-72, Flt. 1153, from Bari International
Airport in Bari, Italy to Djerba-Zarzis Airport in Djerba,
Tunisia, ran out of fuel and ditched into the ocean. The
fuel gauge for an ATR-42 had been mistakenly installed
on the ATR-72. The aircraft ran out of fuel mid-flight
and the crew requested an emergency landing in Palermo,
Sicily. The ATR glided for 16 minutes before ditching 15
miles northeast of Palermo International Airport. The aircraft
broke apart on impact with 16 of the 39 aboard lost.
2009 - 15 January 2009; US Airways
A320-200. The aircraft was a scheduled passenger flight
from LaGuardia to Charlotte, NC. It struck a flock of birds
shortly after takeoff and lost power on both engines. The
crew ditched the aircraft in the Hudson River. The aircraft
reached about 3200 feet before it began to descend. After
ditching, all five crew members and 150 passengers evacuated
the aircraft. According to the A320 quick reference guide,
the ditching procedure calls for Flaps 3 and a minimum
approach speed of 150 kts and Airbus recommends 11 degrees
of pitch at the time of touchdown. Seems it worked out
OK for them, freezing water and all.
Progress. Maybe. For me, I think
the next time I'm due to fly over water, I'll be looking
for someone still operating one of these: