Pilot's tip of the week

Water Landings In A ‘Land’ Plane

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Subscriber question:

"Can you provide any general tips about over-water flying and ditching a land airplane."- Luis H. 

Wally:

“Not a pretty thought, water landings in a land plane. Lots of issues to think about. For example…getting out after landing, flotation devices, survival and hopefully rescue.

Ditching a planeIf you have to do it, naturally land as close to shore or a potential rescue vessel as possible. Depending upon the type of aircraft you are flying, you may be floating on the surface or upside down and sinking fast after landing. Just figuring out which way is up may be one of your biggest problems.

If your POH has any guidance, of course, follow it. Generally retractable gear airplanes should land gear up. Again generally, if you are flying a high wing airplane you will likely turn over as soon as the gear hits the water.

If you are planning any significant over-water flying, you need the appropriate flotation gear – life vests, rafts and rescue gear. Not only do you need to have it on board, you need to be able to get to it and know how to use it.

If you survive all the foregoing, you now need to worry about survival. This is one thing when flying over water around the Bahamas and another if flying over Lake Michigan in January. Your time of survival in conditions like that is very short and needs great attention as part of your route planning.

Overwater flying in a single engine land plane has many additional risk factors but as in all flying, this risk can be significantly reduced with proper equipment and planning.”