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Best Place To Land In An Emergency?  
User currently offlineGoinv From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 264 posts, RR: 2
Posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 6822 times:

I've just been reading another thread started by a nervous flyer. A reply in the thread stated that pilots are always on the lookout for a suitable place to land - "just in case".

In an ideal world there would always be an airport close by with fire services at the ready. But what would be the best place to land if not? I am assuming the plane is over land - not water and that flaps/slats/landing gear are all OPERABLE.

Would it be best to land at an airport with a runway that is way too short? At least the plane would have decent touchdown but run off the end (maybe obstructions there?)

Would it be better to try and find a Highway/Freeway/Motorway? This would be a danger to other people on the ground and the engines/wings/tailfin may get torn of by obstruction but the paved surface may be advantageous.

Would a field be better? Not so many obstructions to hit but the uneven surface of the land may cause damage to the landing gear - assuming that the landing gear would be used.

I have discounted a wooded area and a valley for obvious reasons.

I can't honestly recall such an incident happening but what would a captain do?


Be who you are, The world was made to measure for your smile. So Smile.
38 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineSean1234 From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 411 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 6774 times:

I suppose it depends in part on the type of aircraft.

Flying Cessnas I always wondered if it would be better to land on an open body of water over a less than perfect field, road, etc. since the water is smooth and would likely help prevent a fire, only the plane would probably flip over and sink. Anyone care to comment?


User currently offlineMrChips From Canada, joined Mar 2005, 927 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 6753 times:

I've always been told to try and avoid landing on roads during a forced approach. There are a few reasons explaining this:

1) You cannot control the traffic; a car could be on the road where you least want it.

2) Many roads, especially 2-lane country roads, have mailboxes, trees, power poles, etc. along the sides. These objects can obviously cause you some difficulty, both on the last segment of the approach as well as rollout.

3) if there is any crosswind, a road becomes an awfully narrow target.

However, given the choice between landing on a road and in a forest, I would choose the road. A forest is about the worst place to make a forced approach. In the mountains, your choices are limited, so if you cannot find a suitable creek/river bed to land on, you might have to take your chances with the trees.

Now, choosing between water and an open field is a no-brainer, in my opinion. Landing in the water, although it prevents fire, severely complicates the situation in the fact that egress from the aircraft becomes either extremely difficult or impossible. The way I see it, it's impossible to drown in a rocky field, so I'd probably take my chances there.

Finally, a story to share. One of my friends told me of a forced approach he experienced...there were no good fields anywhere in reasonable gliding distance, except for one beautiful green field. He landed there, and it turns out he chose to land on a sod farm...he said that if he had the choice between landing on the grass strip he took off from or the sod farm, he would have chose the sod farm, because it was so much smoother than the airstrip!



Time...to un-pimp...ze auto!
User currently offlineGoinv From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 264 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 6623 times:

Quoting Sean1234 (Reply 1):
I suppose it depends in part on the type of aircraft.

I was thinking along the lines of commercial planes - A320 / 737 / ERJ145 / A380 etc etc



Be who you are, The world was made to measure for your smile. So Smile.
User currently offlineAaron747 From Japan, joined Aug 2003, 8034 posts, RR: 26
Reply 4, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 6606 times:

As a Cessna pilot, I can almost categorically suggest that trying to put a transport category aircraft down anywhere other than a runway is going to lead you right up a creek spelled s-h-i-*......


If you need someone to blame / throw a rock in the air / you'll hit someone guilty
User currently offlineSATL382G From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 6520 times:

Quoting Goinv (Reply 3):
I was thinking along the lines of commercial planes - A320 / 737 / ERJ145 / A380 etc etc

Well the trouble here and in the other thread is that the people asking the question are thinking "heavy jet" and the people answering are thinking "light single or light twin".

It's hard for me to believe that a heavy jet pilot is constantly looking for an emergency landing field (ETOPs might be an exception) yet that is exactly what light single pilots are taught.

From a light single pilot: Where to land depends a lot on the type of aircraft and the nature of the emergency. Running low on gas (need to land soon) is very different from engine failure (forced landing is imminent) is very different from fire in the cockpit (controlled landing in doubt). There are some light piston aircraft were a guy could get away with landing it in a tree and just climb down, with others you might want to pick a field, and some you can pop a chute. In any case though a pilot would have to use whatever he had immediately available.

In the heavy metal airliner case... It's hard for me to imagine a situation which would require a pilot to put an airliner down off airport. 100% engine failure at low altitude, though unlikely, is about the only thing I can imagine. I expect that a pilot in that situation, assuming he's in clear weather, would simply look out the windows and pick a spot. He'll need long, flat, and straight for any sort of "good" outcome -- but likely he's probably going to try and minimize casualties on the ground first, any pax & crew he can save after that is gravy. So point the nose away from schools, homes, and office buildings. After this point the decision is quite likely made for the pilot due to lack of time and altitude..... and what if the visibility is bad?

regards


User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 6496 times:

Water isn't paradise. People have no idea how quickly one can become 30 feet under.

Regarding heavy aircraft, I don't think they stay on the lookout for landing spots, more like constantly calculate the headings and distances to the nearest airports. Pressing one button will do that.

For light aircraft, I would guess the best is landing over the thin layer of water of a shoreline, or on the beach itself. Otherwise long straight mountain roads, flat areas, highways, agricultural fields, etc etc. If you have to land in a valley, land uphill.

Kay


User currently offlineRalgha From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 1614 posts, RR: 6
Reply 7, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 6489 times:

Water is usually the worst choice for light airplanes. If you have fixed gear, you WILL flip over. Freeways are often good, straight roads with little traffic are good IF you can verify that there are no power lines. Farm fields are often ok if you land parallel to the plow lines. Try to pick a field with a cheap crop or the farmer might shoot you. Beaches are good, as long as you stay on the wet sand. Forests are survivable. If you're going for trees, by langing between two close trees and ripping the wings off to slow the airplane down, the chances are very good.


09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
User currently offlineTheBigOne From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2004, 240 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 6469 times:

I cannot remember the exact details of this incident of a forced landing of an Airbus A300, but I will try:

An Indian Airlines A300-B2 attempted to land a number of times in heavy fog, in a South Indian city. The pilot decided to divert back to his point of departure, but as he reconfigured the aircraft for the one hour flight back, the flaps were stuck down. The fuel burn went through the roof, and halfway back to the point of origin, the aircraft ran out of fuel. The pilot put the aircraft down in a rice field, and miraculously all the passengers emerged unscathed. I remember seeing pictures of the aircraft and thinking that it actually did not seem to have too much damage. However I doubt that aircraft ever flew again, least of all because it would be impossible to take off in a paddy field.



Reach for the stars - they are closer than you think!
User currently offlineCorey07850 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 2525 posts, RR: 5
Reply 9, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 6459 times:

Quoting MrChips (Reply 2):
A forest is about the worst place to make a forced approach.

Absolutely not! Given the choice of a road or a forest, I would most certainly pick the forest. All of the others have given reasons why it's not a good idea to land on a road, but they forgot to mention liability. You can bet that if you cause any injuries or accidents/damage your ass will be sued in a heartbeat.

Landing in a forest is a great place to land because you get the plane slowed way down, set best glide, and just wait for the plane to stop. The trees are excellent at absorbing energy due to all the branches and leaves. Obviously your wings will be clipped off etc, but you'll walk away. This is why pilots are taught to "aim for the dark areas" should they lose an engine at night


User currently offlineRalgha From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 1614 posts, RR: 6
Reply 10, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 6443 times:

Pilots are taught to aim for the dark areas at night because there's the least chance of obstacles there, not because landing in trees is safer. If you smack an average forest tree square on, you're dead. I would much rather take the road over the forest if the road didn't have certain obstacles like power lines. I'd rather be sued than dead.


09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 11, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 6437 times:

Quoting Corey07850 (Reply 9):
Landing in a forest is a great place to land because you get the plane slowed way down, set best glide, and just wait for the plane to stop. The trees are excellent at absorbing energy due to all the branches and leaves. Obviously your wings will be clipped off etc, but you'll walk away. This is why pilots are taught to "aim for the dark areas" should they lose an engine at night

That' crazy!!! I've never heard of aim for the dark area but regardless I'm reminded of the Southern Airways DC-9 years ago that lost both eng. in a terrible storm. The crew picked out a country highway to land on when it became obvious that there was no airport within gliding dist. Everything was fine untill the road turned and the jet entered a forest. It was torn to pieces and there were few survivors. No I wouldn't choose a forest.


User currently offlineMiamiair From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 6433 times:

Please pick one or the other:

Light aircraft or Transport category.


User currently offlineArmitageShanks From UK - England, joined Dec 2003, 3611 posts, RR: 15
Reply 13, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 6426 times:

My instructor always said if you have an engine failure at night and are just about to touch down off the airport, turn on your landing light for a second. If you don't like what you see, just turn it back off and pray...

User currently offlineMrChips From Canada, joined Mar 2005, 927 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 6388 times:

Quoting Corey07850 (Reply 9):

Landing in a forest is a great place to land because you get the plane slowed way down, set best glide, and just wait for the plane to stop. The trees are excellent at absorbing energy due to all the branches and leaves. Obviously your wings will be clipped off etc, but you'll walk away. This is why pilots are taught to "aim for the dark areas" should they lose an engine at night

Trees are NOT good at absorbing energy in any way whatsoever. You ever seen what happens when a car hits a power pole or a tree? Generally very few, if anyone, in the car survives the impact. Now consider a light airplane, in which the crash survivability is much lower, due to design constraints and impact speed...the trees aren't an energy dissipator, rather, they become like razor blades.

As for the liability issue, if you die as a result of your accident, people can still sue your estate.

In any larger aircraft (I would say anything larger than a King Air), looking for a suitable field basically means looking for a suitable airfield. The reason why light aircraft pilots look for fields to put down in is that most light aircraft do not have enough performance margin to continue flight to a suitable airfield in the event of an engine failure.



Time...to un-pimp...ze auto!
User currently offlineCorey07850 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 2525 posts, RR: 5
Reply 15, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 6382 times:

Quoting MrChips (Reply 14):
Trees are NOT good at absorbing energy in any way whatsoever. You ever seen what happens when a car hits a power pole or a tree? Generally very few, if anyone, in the car survives the impact. Now consider a light airplane, in which the crash survivability is much lower, due to design constraints and impact speed...the trees aren't an energy dissipator, rather, they become like razor blades.

I agree, as long as you are dumb enough to fly the plane into the base of a huge tree trunk. You skim the tops of the trees to slowly dissipate energy and speed using the smaller branches higher up. When a car hits a tree or power pole it goes from say 60mph-0 in less than a second...Imagine the deceleration forces. A plane skimming the tops of a forest and slowly sinking into them could go from say 68kts to 0 in 20 seconds--A HUGE difference.


User currently offlineMrChips From Canada, joined Mar 2005, 927 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 6362 times:

Quoting Corey07850 (Reply 15):
A plane skimming the tops of a forest and slowly sinking into them could go from say 68kts to 0 in 20 seconds--A HUGE difference.

Of course, this would be ideal, but the chances of this are virtually zero. Remember, when you are skimming along the treetops, you are still flying 30-50 ft. off the forest floor...what happens when you drop below flying speed? You stall, and drop below the canopy of the forest and into the big, fat tree trunks. Even if you were able to come to a complete stop and stay in the forest canopy, most forests are not dense enough, and most trees are not strong enough, to hold up a one ton aluminum buzzard.



Time...to un-pimp...ze auto!
User currently offlineCURLYHEADBOY From Italy, joined Feb 2005, 940 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 6355 times:

Ok, I need your help on this one: I recall that somebody landed a 737 on a grassy field in an emergency (fuel starvation IIRC). Not only they successfully landed but, after a careful inspection, a crew was able to takeoff again from the field.
Help me find what aircraft/airline was it, when and under what circumstances it happened.  Smile



If God had wanted men to fly he would have given them more money...
User currently offlineVSIVARIES From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 108 posts, RR: 4
Reply 18, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 6349 times:

This is for small planes only.

If you want to try and save the plane.....

I was taught to first of all determine the direction of the wind (if you have sufficient height to do this obviously). Then plan your forced landing INTO the headwind on a large field with no hard obstructions. Hard means trees, telegraph poles etc.
Hedges are apparently not that hard and can help to stop you (will trash the plane mind).
If possible the wind should be considered because if you land with a decent tailwind you will either;

a) Not land at all - (believe me I've tried it!)
b) Not stop. Or not until you crash into something anyway.

In a simple plane (I fly a PA-28), wind direction can be determined by looking for smoke on the ground, remembering where it was when you took off (if flying local) or if you have enough time try and find out with the radio.

Talking generally i.e. engine failure type put down, above all, height = time = better chance of walking away from it!

If you have a more serious problem then I imagine you won't be thinking about the wind too much.

B/R

[Edited 2005-04-28 21:10:41]


For every action there is always an unequal but mostly similar reaction.
User currently offlineSATL382G From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 6341 times:

Quoting CURLYHEADBOY (Reply 17):
Ok, I need your help on this one: I recall that somebody landed a 737 on a grassy field in an emergency (fuel starvation IIRC). Not only they successfully landed but, after a careful inspection, a crew was able to takeoff again from the field.
Help me find what aircraft/airline was it, when and under what circumstances it happened.

TACA put a 737 down on a levee in New Orleans after both engines flamed out due to water ingestion.

http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20001213X25693&key=1


User currently offlineCURLYHEADBOY From Italy, joined Feb 2005, 940 posts, RR: 2
Reply 20, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 6332 times:

Quoting SATL382G (Reply 19):
TACA put a 737 down on a levee in New Orleans after both engines flamed out due to water ingestion.

Yup! that's it  Smile Thanks!



If God had wanted men to fly he would have given them more money...
User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13042 posts, RR: 12
Reply 21, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 6323 times:

One alternative for larger a/c could be abandoned or active military airfields.
Recall the 'Gimini Glider'? Once they realized the lack of fuel, the pilot tried to get to a regular commerical/mainline airfield. Realizing that they may not make it to the desirable airport (about 50 miles away and could only glide about 20 from the height they were at), the pilot recalled from his service in the RACF of a RCAF base near by. He then piloted his a/c to that airfield near the town of Gimini. The field had been discontinued as an RCAF base and part of the runway was being used for a flea market/boot sale, but enough of the runway was available for the aircraft and was able to land safely without engine power. The then new 767 only suffered some damage to the nose and nose gear (which collasped on landing). If I am correct, the a/c was repaired and still in service.
I have heard of several stories of small GA's landing on interstate or wide roads safely, including on I-80 in Rockaway, NJ a number of years ago. Of course, it may be difficult to not get between, around or hit by a car or a semi, but it may be the best of bad choices. As to landing with the trees, sometimes it works, and have heard of survived such treetop landings, but more often it doesn't.
Then there are all of the rumors that some USA Interstate routes were designed to be emergency military airstrips. It is understood that parts of some German Autobans built in the Nazi era were built to be used and were used for military airstrips.
For a large commercial landing on a major highway today, it probably wouldn't work due to width of most such a/c's, the capacity of the road to hold the a/c's weight, traffic and other obstructions.


User currently offlineSATL382G From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 22, posted (9 years 3 months 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 6275 times:

Quoting LTBEWR (Reply 21):
Recall the 'Gimini Glider'?

Nope....

I think you're thinking of the Gimli Glider....


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Alex G.-Denicourt - Contrails Aviation Photography



User currently offlineRalgha From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 1614 posts, RR: 6
Reply 23, posted (9 years 3 months 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 6234 times:

You skim the tops of the trees to slowly dissipate energy and speed using the smaller branches higher up.

Virtually impossible to do. Forests aren't dense enough.

If you want to try and save the plane.....

That's the first step towards killing yourself and everyone else in the airplane. When you're forced to land off an airport, saving the airplane is LAST. Sacrifice the airplane to save the people.



09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
User currently offlineAa757first From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 3347 posts, RR: 8
Reply 24, posted (9 years 3 months 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 6222 times:

Quoting Goinv (Thread starter):

Would it be best to land at an airport with a runway that is way too short? At least the plane would have decent touchdown but run off the end (maybe obstructions there?)

I would say so.
A) At least there is some unobstructed area for you to at least slow the aircraft.
B) It's not like there is going to be some huge forest two inches from the end of the runway. It will probably be relatively obstruction free for a while.

AA.ndrew


25 MrChips : Yes...thats exactly what I said. Building on what you said, it might seem like a wonderful and courageous thing do do, saving the airplane, but it mi
26 Woodreau : Where I learned to fly, dark areas at night are the mountains so you didn't want to go there. Roads are most likely in the valleys. So flying at nigh
27 Ralgha : Anyways, I think in a large transport category aircraft, there is much better support from ATC, maintenance, dispatch, and redundancy Accurate except
28 HAWK21M : If one can find an Empty beach on the way,A belly landing would be Ideal. It had to be Dismantled & never flew Again. I guess the Decision is based o
29 Ralgha : If one can find an Empty beach on the way,A belly landing would be Ideal. No need for a belly landing. Wet sand is plenty hard enough. There's an airp
30 FredT : First off, best glide and wait would not be the thing to do. What you want to do is stall out just above the trees, just as if landing on a runway. T
31 Qxeguy : I don't fly large Transport aircraft yet, but I would guess their first choice is an airport, 2nd choice an open field. Light Aircraft: I have been th
32 Jfkaua : " target=_blank>http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?e...key=1 wow do they really need to use so many abbreviations.. wow you dont have very good luck h
33 N766UA : Water is baaaad times. It's really a game a russian roulette when it comes to water... except you're messing with an automatic pistol. There is really
34 IFIXCF6 : I'm surprised that no one has mentioned "405". It's a comedy video about an AA DC10 that makes a forced landing on California freeway 405. If you have
35 Post contains links and images BuckFifty : View Large View MediumPhoto © Andreas Zeitler - Flying-Wings AIrliners do make forced landings once in a while, but only in exceptional circumsta
36 L-188 : When I was taking flight lessons at the University of North Dakota, I went 10 rounds with my second instructor over this issue. At the time we where
37 Mandala499 : Best place to land in an emergency is always... an airport/airfield... Even if you can't make a safe landing there... it'll always be better than a ro
38 Downingbarry : To throw more controversy into the debate, I would suggest it depends on the type of forest you are aiming at, if you do decide to take the green rout
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