CHAPTER 7—Skiplane Operations


When operating a skiplane, carry an adequate survival kit. A good rule of thumb is to carry what is needed to be comfortable. Alaska, Canada, and Sweden provide lists on the internet of the survival equipment required for flights in northern areas. In addition to communicating the current requirements for specific jurisdictions, these lists can help pilots choose additional equipment to meet their needs, beyond the minimum required. Also be sure to check for any restrictions on the carriage of firearms if they are part of your survival kit.


If skis are not rigged properly, or when recommended airspeeds are exceeded, it is possible that a ski will tuck down and give a momentary downward rotation of the nose of the skiplane. This is generally caused by spring or bungee tension not being sufficient to hold ski tips up. The immediate fix is to reduce power and reduce the speed of the skiplane. When the air loads are decreased below the tension of the spring or bungee, the ski will pitch back into place and the control problem will go away. Have a maintenance shop correctly adjust the spring or bungee tension and avoid exceeding the speed limits specified for the skis.

A precautionary landing may be necessary for events such as a broken ski cable or broken hydraulic line. If a ski cable breaks, the front of the ski will tip down. This creates an asymmetrical drag situation, similar to a large speed brake on one side of the skiplane. This condition is controllable; however, it will take skill to maintain control. Not only does the tilted ski create a lot of drag, it also complicates the landing, since the front of the ski will dig in as it contacts the surface, causing abrupt deceleration and severe damage to the landing gear. If efforts to get the ski into a streamlined position fail, a landing should be made as soon as practical.

To attempt to streamline the ski, slow to maneuvering speed or less. It may be possible for a passenger to use a long rod such as a broom handle to push down on the back end of the ski, aligning it with the airflow and making possible a relatively normal landing. If the skis are retractable, try to ensure that they are both in the UP position (for a pavement landing) and land on pavement.

If it is not possible to get the ski to trail correctly, the skiplane must be landed in such a way as to minimize danger to the occupants. This usually means trying to land so that the hanging ski breaks off quickly rather than digging in and possibly destroying the skiplane. Fly to an area where help is available, since damage is virtually inevitable. It is often best to land on a hard surface to increase the chances of the ski breaking away.

With a broken hydraulic line, a condition of one ski up and one ski down may develop. Again, the skiplane is controllable with proper rudder and braking technique.


A night landing should never be attempted at an unfamiliar location except in an emergency. To increase the likelihood of a successful landing, perform the checklist appropriate for the emergency, and unlatch the doors prior to landing to prevent jamming due to airframe distortion in the event of a hard landing. If time permits, make distress calls and activate the emergency locator transmitter (ELT).

When selecting a landing area, frozen lakes and rivers are a good choice if the ice is thick enough to support the aircraft. If the ice is thin or the thickness unknown, a landing in an open field would be a better option.

After selecting a landing area, perform a reconnaissance and look for obstructions, field condition, wind direction, and snow conditions if possible. Fly over the landing area in the intended direction of touchdown and drop glow sticks 2 seconds apart along the length of the touchdown zone. Use the glow sticks to aid in depth perception during final approach. Make the touchdown with power, if available, and as slow as possible.

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