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Water Landings  
User currently offlineBigphilnyc From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 4077 posts, RR: 54
Posted (11 years 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 3422 times:

I was reaidng a book which in which the character was on a 777 about to go over the Atlantic. He was talking about a friend of his doing something and then said:

"...while the stewardess did the safety lecture. If the airplane hit the water at 400 knots, reach under your seat for the life preserver by pulling...he'd heard that one before. The bright yellow life-jackets would make it somewhat easier for search aircraft to find the crash site, and that was about all they were good for."

When I first read this, I laughed SO hard. It's true.

I'm no expert, so correct me if I'm wrong, but there can't be ANY such thing as a water landing (or 'safe' water crash). If you're crashing into the water, you're going to hit the water at 120 knots if you're extremely lucky enough to have slowed down in a glide and flared before you touched down or something.

I think these yellwo life-preservers exist only to give uneasy passengers the peace of mind of thinking that a water crash is actually survivable and the "flotation devices" will be helpful.

Your thoughts?

Phil Derner Jr.
17 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineAcvitale From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 922 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (11 years 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 3371 times:

There have been survivable water landings with fatalities from drowning when the did not know how to swim. It happens every few years between the Bahamas and Florida alone.

Look at last years Air Sunshine crash.

A few years before that a crash of Ethiopian Airlines, and a crash in Kenya had similar results.

Many years ago National put a 727 in the drink outside PNS with similar results.

Of course many survived with life vest and seat cushions.

Not hardly as futile as you might think

User currently offlinePositive rate From Australia, joined Sep 2001, 2143 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (11 years 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 3322 times:

I doubt it you're ever going to hit the water at 400kts unless the plane's in a nose-dive. But even if you hit at let's say 120kts groundspeed at the very minimum, that's still around 222 km/h which is very fast still and the plane would definitely come apart. In this situation you'd be better off in a rear engined aircraft like a DC-9/MD80/717 since the wing mounted engines tend to get torn off flipping the plane over at the same time.

User currently offlineBigphilnyc From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 4077 posts, RR: 54
Reply 3, posted (11 years 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 3258 times:

A page later in the book:

"At least the captain didn't bother me with the usual tour-director crap-we are now at forty thousand feet, that's almost eight miles to fall if the wings come off and..."

Phil Derner Jr.
User currently offlineSegmentKing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (11 years 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 3122 times:

Chalks Ocean Airways lands in the water everyday  Smile/happy/getting dizzy


User currently offlineCha747 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 788 posts, RR: 6
Reply 5, posted (11 years 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 3095 times:

So from a non-pilot...can a 777, 747, or A380 be brought down safely in the drink? Safe enough that the life rafts can be deployed and almost every passenger (who doesn't have cardiac arrest in the mean time) float away alive? Has this ever happened?

You land a million planes safely, then you have one little mid-air and you never hear the end of it - Pushing Tin
User currently offlineFunFlyer From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 866 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (11 years 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 2929 times:

Would it work if the aircraft had inflatible buies/rafts that inflated on the bottom/sides of the aircraft before they plane hit the water?

Like it could surround the plane maybe?

Who cares about status?
User currently offlineSlamclick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 7, posted (11 years 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2836 times:

The decision to put the personal flotation devices on board was made by people a lot smarter than the people who think they are for use after hitting the water at 400 knots.

Of course they are for controlled ditching. The only controlled ditching of a jet airliner that I am aware of was an ONA DC-9 back in the 1970's off St. Thomas in bad weather. I don't have immediate access to any of the details but I think that I recall that everyone survived the ditching and that most or all of the fatalities were caused by the inadvertent inflating of the 46-man raft in the forward galley area, blocking the 1L and 1R doors.

There is also the famous ditching of the PanAm B-377 at Ocean Station November, between California and Hawaii in about 1956. There were passengers on that flight who never even got their shoes wet.

Extended overwater airplanes will have 46-man rafts, enough to hold all occupants of the aircraft plus something like a 50% overflow capacity. The life vests will give you a much better chance of making it to the raft.

To be sure, the eastbound night crossings of the north Atlantic carry a higher risk than, say, a daylight flight to Hawaii. I asked the Hibernia drilling platform about their weather and sea state one night. They replied that the seas were fairly calm with 1.5 meter swells. Not good odds on ditching but some would probably survive it. The water is cold. You would not last very long in it, and it will begin to rob you of your strength almost immediately. Again, those vests are just to get you to the raft. Some would survive.

I'd bet that those who would survive were those who worked at it - those who did not just apathetically believe that if anything goes wrong they are going to die. We cannot do anything about the wildcard luck items, but the rest of it our will to live can make the difference.

Most of our overwater air routes approximate the great circle routes. That means that if there are ports at each end of the route there are ships navigating them too. Ships mean rescue within hours now. With the AMVERS program the pilot may even be overheard by ships when making the "mayday" call and may even talk to a ship on the way down. It is not completely hopeless and I personally would rather die busy than feeling sorry for myself.

If all the life vest would do is keep my body afloat then I owe at least that to those left behind. My family could at least have closure if my body is found. I'd put it on for that reason alone.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14140 posts, RR: 62
Reply 8, posted (11 years 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2763 times:

The Ethopian Airlines 767 crash off the coast of Mauritius was also an attempt at acontroled ditching. I don´t know in how far the hijackers prevented preparations, but the pilots tried to land it without fuel just off a seaside resort. Unfortunately the left wingtip touched the water just prior to impact, so that the plane went cartwheeling and broke apart.
They were lucky that there was a scuba diving school at the beach with speed boats and trained scuba divers wearing their gear, plus a few doctors and nurses among the tourists on the beach as well. The divers got a lot of the passengers out alive.


User currently offlineSlamclick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 9, posted (11 years 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 2596 times:


Yes, that was a spectacular video. I did not include it as a jet ditching because it always appeared to me that maybe they were still fighting for control of the plane at the moment of impact. The plane was in a fairly steep bank at the first impact. If it had been a simple ditching with the pilots firmly in control I'd expect them to do a lot better landing.

Still there is an important survival message there. That is a worst-nightmare cartwheeling crash and yet lots of people survived it.

Another was the US 737 that landed on top the Metroliner at LAX a few years ago. Some of the fatalities were people unhurt by the crash who could not figure out how to open one of the rear doors. They died because they felt no need to pay any attention to the safety briefing they'd heard so many times before. Or maybe some of them died because some other moron talked to them while the briefing was going on.

As we always say: "The best time to know and the worst time to study emergency procedures is during an emergency.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineKaiGywer From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 12286 posts, RR: 35
Reply 10, posted (11 years 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 2552 times:

My guess is that while the chances of surviving an actual water landing are slim, and life vests might not help you, the chances of overrunning a runway and ending in water is very likely and that has happened several times. In that case, a life vest will probably save the ones that can't swim.

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“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, an
User currently offlineMandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6972 posts, RR: 76
Reply 11, posted (11 years 23 hours ago) and read 2404 times:

Try the Garuda 737-300 PK-GWA that ditched on a river in Jan2002, after both engines flamed out due to excess water ingestion. No power, just glide, down to the river... Aircraft was in one piece when it stopped, and passengers used their lifevests...

No passengers killed, only fatality was a flight attendant whose neck was broken on the initial airframe impact (to a bedrock) and her seat somehow collapsed.

So, lifevests CAN save your life Big grin


When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
User currently offlineYyz717 From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 16370 posts, RR: 56
Reply 12, posted (11 years 22 hours ago) and read 2361 times:

This Aerolineas Argentinas 732 crash landed while on final approach:

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Photo © Juan Pablo Marini

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Panam, TWA, Ansett, Eastern.......AC next? Might be good for Canada.
User currently offlinePanAm707320B From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2003, 97 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (11 years 21 hours ago) and read 2254 times:

Sorry the details are so sketchy, but I'm sure I remember reading somewhere about a near brand new JAL DC-8 that made an unintentional controlled descent into the bay whilst on approach to SFO. I'm not sure if there were any fatalities, but I do remember reading that the captain committed suicide sometime later. Perhaps someone out there has a better memory!


User currently offlinePW100 From Netherlands, joined Jan 2002, 2594 posts, RR: 16
Reply 14, posted (11 years 14 hours ago) and read 2067 times:

Hi PanAm707320B

You can read all the details on that JAL DC-8 ditching right here on Airliners.net:


Immigration officer: "What's the purpose of your visit to the USA?" Spotter: "Shooting airliners with my Canon!"
User currently offlineSlamclick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 15, posted (11 years 14 hours ago) and read 2075 times:


I did not include the JAL Flight 2 crash as a ditching because it was a "controlled flight into terrrain" accident. Some of the particulars of it:

JA8032 a DC-8-62 was inbound to KSFO on 22 November 1968. It crossed the Woodside VOR at 4000' and was cleared to descend to 2000' For some reason the plane descended steadily until just seconds before impact with the water of San Francisco Bay just over two miles short of the runway. It never leveled at 2000' as cleared and it never captured the ILS glideslope as one might otherwise expect. Probably these options were not armed or conditions not met for their capture.

The plane struck the water with the gear down and, as far as I know, flaps set for approach/landing. There were 96 passengers and 11 crew on board. There were no fatalities.

The plane was placed on a barge and floated to the United Airlines maintenance facilities at SFO. Thousands of manhours later, the plane flew again on 26 March 1969. It flew for JAL many more years and is flying today for Airborne Express as N808AX.

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Relevance to this thread: Unintended impact with smooth water. No fatalities. Pay attention to the briefing or don't bother. Survivors will be selected from those who did.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineBigphilnyc From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 4077 posts, RR: 54
Reply 16, posted (11 years 14 hours ago) and read 2015 times:

That JAL DC-8 is a realy good story. Soemthign good to tell to my airline-frightened friends that they might not die! lol

But the quotes form the book were still very funny to me. lol

Thanks for providing such info guys! I hop many reading this learned form it. I did.  Smile

Phil Derner Jr.
User currently offlineAirGabon From Switzerland, joined Dec 2003, 892 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (11 years 11 hours ago) and read 1928 times:

Ethiopian 767 crashed near the coasts of Comoros Islands (between Madagascar and Mozambique), not Mauritius.

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