I don`t know who wrote the comments but this is a good summary of
I don't know who wrote the comments but this is a good summary of the
known ditchings and crash landings on water in airline operations since the
FLAT WATER IS USEFUL
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, Lockeed, Tupolef; 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;
"When landing on the open ocean land with the swells. Avoid the aircraft hitting the top
of one, then slamming down into the trough beyond".
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.
"Gear 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 State" 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 rescue
1956 - April 2, 1956. Northwest 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
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.
The wreckage 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.
1968- On November 22nd, 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
1972 - On the 17th of July, 1972, a Tupolev Tu-134 approaching Moscow's MoskvaSheremetyevo 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
2002 - 16 January, 2002, an Indonesian Airline (Garuda) 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 water.
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
2009 - 15 January 2009; US Airways A320-200. The aircraft was a scheduled
passenger flight from LaGuardia, NY 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: