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Can An Airliner Land On Water?  
User currently offlineJutes85 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 7124 times:

Ever since the Air Transat near-accident, something got me thinking. Is it possible for a large jet to successfully land on water without getting totally destroyed?

If the A330 did not make it to the Azores, would the pilot be able to slow the aircraft down enough so he can just "plop" the aircraft down on the water without it breaking into pieces? I mean if the pilot slowed it down at about 20-30feet off the surface, then just stall it slowly so it just bounces of the water until it stops?

[Edited 2003-12-31 21:05:06]

35 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineAirplay From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 7071 times:

There are ditching standards that airliners must meet, but generally, NO they can't land on water. You can pretty much guarantee that any airliner water landing will result not only in desctruction but death as well...

No commercial airliner has yet been successfully ditched in water to my knowledge.


User currently offlineBuzz From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 697 posts, RR: 21
Reply 2, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 7057 times:

HI Jutes85, Buzz here. I can only think of one ditching that i read about back in the ealy 70's. A DC-9 ditched in the Carribean sea. Most of the people survived.

Remember that water is 860+ times denser than air. At 120mph it's quite dense: you've seen pictures of barefoot water skiiers? And every so often somebody has fun with little airplanes on a lake: they'll be at cruise speed and descend to the surface of the water and skip their wheels into the water. They have wing lift so they don't sink, but it's a hard surface. I hear that's how bush pilots are able to land on gravel beaches in a bend of a river (which might be the only place in rough terrain: touch down short of the gravel in the river, "water-ski" to the gravel, then cut the power. It's not for beginners.

g'day and Good New Year
Buzz Fuselsausage: Line Mechanic by night, DC-3 Crew Chief by choice, taildragger pilot for fun


User currently offlineSlamclick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 3, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 7032 times:

This topic was beat to death not three days ago in a thread having to do with life preservers under the seats. Try a search.






Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineCanadianNorth From Canada, joined Aug 2002, 3390 posts, RR: 9
Reply 4, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 6942 times:

The old water ski on the tires till you hit the gravel/sand bar and cut the power eh.... must be a hell of a ride, sign me up  Big thumbs up


CanadianNorth



What could possibly go wrong?
User currently offlineBekol From Hong Kong, joined Jun 2001, 44 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 6941 times:

So I wonder why we need a "Water Evaluation Procedure" on safety cards of every airliners if it's just impossible to land on water? we always see the aircraft floating on the water on that safety cards....  Smile

Bekol


User currently offlineUSAFHummer From United States of America, joined May 2000, 10685 posts, RR: 52
Reply 6, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 6946 times:

Well the Ethopian 767 hijacking a few years back off the coast of Africa (near Comoros I think), that was a ditching, albeit slightly out of control as the hijackers were struggling for control...I believe about 100 people survived that...

"So I wonder why we need a "Water Evaluation Procedure" on safety cards of every airliners if it's just impossible to land on water? we always see the aircraft floating on the water on that safety cards...." - in case of overruns into water would be one reason...I can remember at least 2 such cases, one 747 (CI or CX, cant remember), went off the runway in HKG and into the water there, and a DL MD-88 overran at LGA into the water...

Greg



Chief A.net college football stadium self-pic guru
User currently offlineBekol From Hong Kong, joined Jun 2001, 44 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 6922 times:

Oh yeah I remembered that it was CI B747-400 that written off at Kai Tak because of that!

Bekol


User currently offlineNecigrad From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 183 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 6886 times:

Remember, those safety cards are written to cover all generalisations. If you crash on land the closes, even ONLY exit might be the big hole where the row in front of you was. Can a plane land in water? Yes. Will it be in one piece? Maybe, in a smooth lake, if you're lucky. When the plane cartwheels in the water, are the water evacuation directions still valid? Yup, even if there's more or less exits. But as George Carlin said, do you really want to be hugging a seat cushion filled with beer farts?

User currently offlineAirplay From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 6861 times:

Well the Ethopian 767 hijacking a few years back off the coast of Africa (near Comoros I think), that was a ditching, albeit slightly out of control as the hijackers were struggling for control...I believe about 100 people survived that...


Umm...."slightly out of control" is akin to rolling off the side of a runway. I don't think anyone who has seen the video clip would use that term. After one wingtip and engine hit the water, the airplane cartwheeled.


User currently offlineNecigrad From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 183 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 6847 times:

Actually it WAS only slightly out of control. That's why the wing caught like it did. The wing dipped, just like going off the side of the runway in your example. Now, put a building on the side of the runway, and then the plane hits it. But it was only "slightly out of control". If the pilots hadn't been interfered with, they may very well have avoided that cartwheel.

User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 11, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 6782 times:

Was also that DC-8 landing short of the runway in Africa, Lake Victoria IIRC. Floated until they towed it ashore.

Cheers,
Fred



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently offlineAirplay From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 6751 times:

Necigrad,

The requirement to "control" an aircraft doesn't suddenly stop when the airplanes is out of control or if they are interfered with.

An aircraft in control doesn't cartwheel across the water....period.


User currently offlineNecigrad From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 183 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 6745 times:

Correct, but Airplay was implying that lack of control was there because it cartwheeled (which happened because a wingtip caught the water), but running off the runway was only "slightly out of control". Using that basis, is seperating two phases. The first phase is thte point before loss of control. In these cases it's when the wingtip hit the water and when te aircraft went off the runway. The second phase has two outcomes. Either the loss of control is recoverable or not. Those pilots did not "lose control". Control was denied by the forces of water. Those pilots deserve credit for that ditch IMO.

User currently offlineEmbqa From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 9364 posts, RR: 11
Reply 14, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 6746 times:

Sure.....they did it in 'Airport '78' didn't they...?? Even after the aircraft sank, the fuselage remained water tight too....!!


"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
User currently offlineAirplay From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 6737 times:

Those pilots did not "lose control".

So...they maintained control?

 Smile


User currently offlineMusang From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2001, 865 posts, RR: 7
Reply 16, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 6693 times:

Another survivable ditching I can think of is the JAL DC-8 in Tokyo bay (24 died, 150 didn't) and I've a feeling there was another, also JAL, in SFO bay, but I can't find any info.

The DC-9 between the east coast and Bermuda was basically intact. The China 747-400 in HKG was actually resting (and rocking) on its main gear on the bottom, and was much slower than flying speed when it went off the end, so it doesn't count!

I believe its true to say that anything with underslung wing mounted engines stands a good chance of losing them on impact, which of course is a good thing, less weight for the floating aircraft to support.

On ATR and Avro RJ conversion courses I've done, I made a point of asking the tech. instructors how they knew exactly how the aircraft would float. No real tests were done of course, its all calculated. (Both types are expected to float with the rear fuselage low, so exit by the forward exits is recommended, on the high side. There will be one wingtip in the water).

One which would have been very spectacular is a Concorde. The normal pitch attitude on approach is 11 3/4 degrees nose up, so assuming the gear was up, the tail would hit first, slamming the forward fuselage down with a considerable impact. The engines would not come off, and would act as very effective brakes when they ingested water. I read that somewhere, its not conjecture, and what I don't know is what the actual ditching drill says (gear up/down).

Regards - Musang


User currently offlineJetguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 6675 times:

Interesting topic...

The Falcon 20 bizjet is one of the few jet transports actually certified for water ditching. As I remember, a crew ran into some trouble and actually had to ditch one. It floated for a long time and the Coast Guard ended up using it for target practice - they didn't want it floating free in the shipping lanes. The French went to the FAA with the data and pictures and got them to "Ditch Certify" it.

The North American Sabreliner was originally designed to be a light military transport. One of its charactistics is a funny entry door which required you to "step over the side" - it was purposely designed that way in case of a water landing.

I used to work with the copilot of the DC-9 that ditched. I don't know much about what actually happened, we would never talk about it.

Jetguy


User currently offlineGordonsmall From UK - Scotland, joined Jun 2001, 2146 posts, RR: 21
Reply 18, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 6674 times:

The Falcon 20 bizjet is one of the few jet transports actually certified for water ditching.

Just out of interest, what sort of perceived value does being "certified to ditch" add to an aircraft?

It's not exactly something one would want to do in normal operations is it? I mean let's face it if a crew of an aircraft which is not "certified to ditch" comes face to face with that situation I doubt they're going to let the certification standards of the airplane get in the way of saving their own skin.

Maybe I'm just being cynical?

Regards,
Gordon.



Statistically, people who have had the most birthdays tend to live the longest.
User currently offlineUSAFHummer From United States of America, joined May 2000, 10685 posts, RR: 52
Reply 19, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 6624 times:

Maybe it could be used as a marketing tool by Dassault:

"If by some reason our Falcon 20 business jet suffers a double flameout over the North Atlantic, don't worry! Our Falcon 20 is certified to land in the water safely and without compromising the fuselage, so you'll be nice and safe!"

Greg



Chief A.net college football stadium self-pic guru
User currently offlineJetguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 6614 times:

Gordon,
I wondered the same thing myself. I think Greg had the right idea - it was a marketing tool.
Jetguy


User currently offlineSlamclick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 21, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 6593 times:

"Slightly out of control" is rather like slightly pregnant.

Airport78 never explained why the negative pressure relief valve did not flood the airplane. Oh! Hollywood.

If this thread is somewhat short of substantive replies from well qualified big guns, see post number 3.




Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineExPanAmer From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 36 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 6545 times:

There was a successful ditching of a Pan Am propliner (sorry-I don't remember which type) in the early 50s as the aircraft was heading east from Hawaii. The crew did not want to test luck and have to ditch far away from help at night, so they nursed it to a commercial ship sailing in the Pacific, and flew it until daybreak. They prepped the pax very well, and ditched it gently close to the ship. I don't think there was a single fatality.

User currently offlineSlamclick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 23, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 6537 times:

ExPanAmer

That was a Boeing 377 and it was not a commercial ship that it ditched next to. It was Ocean Station November, a (coast guard I believe) ship that kept station about midway between California and Hawaii. OSN maintained a navaid and relayed communications.

Some of the passengers never even got their feet wet. I have photos during and after the ditching. The fuselage did break.

But all of this was covered in great depth less than a week ago on another thread and that is probably why it is not coming to light here.




Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineNecigrad From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 183 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 6406 times:

OK, I'm gonna drop my arguement about "control". Either I'm wrong or not explaining myself properly. However, I think the plane that crashed into the 14th St. Bridge (Air Florida???) actually took little if any damage from the water. The bridge on the other hand...

25 ExPanAmer : Slamclick, Thank You for the details-I guess it was a long time ago that I had watched the program on which I learned about that incident. Just a thou
26 Post contains images Bragi : The correct procedure for ditching is to land along the swell direction (depending on wave height), with full flaps, gear up and at the lowest possibl
27 Post contains images Night_Flight : Here is a classic amphib! -Night_Flight-
28 Ryan h : For more information on that Panam stratocruiser there is a book called Air Disaster Volume 4 by MacArthur Job.
29 Post contains links and images SlamClick : To put a couple things straight. I think we can say there have been two successful water landings of jet airliners. ONE 22 November 1968. Japan airlin
30 Aaron747 : Excellent post Slam. I always count my rows to exits and I always commit water and oxygen procedures to memory. And remember folks - if your aircraft
31 Fly2hmo : Every time I see the Ethiopian 767 hijack video I always think had the pilot done what Bragi said in reply 26, the only people dead would have been th
32 Post contains links Skydrol : Kind of close to what's being discussed here: Check this link LD4
33 MD-90 : The really reassuring thing is when the bizjet manufacturers skimp on the liferafts in the planes, preferring to load a few more bottles of wine rathe
34 SlamClick : Fly2hmo I agree. I did not mean to sound like I was critical of the Ethiopian pilots, I have no idea what kind of struggle they were involved in. They
35 Musang : Slamclick - thanks for filling in the gap in my memory about the JAL in SFO Bay! Regards - Musang
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