CHAPTER 13. Abnormal and Emergency Procedures

Water Landings ( Ditching)

Prefl ight planning for any fl ight where a water landing is possible should include personal fl otation devices for the pilot and occupants. A hook knife should also be accessible for the pilot and passenger. A beach or landing spot where an emergency landing can be made on land, is preferred to landing in water. If a water landing must be made, the aircraft should be positioned close to land in shallow water, if possible, preferably four to fi ve feet deep to use as a cushion but still deep enough to stand in with the head above water.

With any altitude above the water, preparations should be made to get rid of any items that would make it more diffi cult to exit the WSC aircraft and swim once it enters the water. This would include removing boots for swimming, discarding any camera lanyards, headphones, or other unnecessary items that could hinder the exit from the WSC aircraft once underwater.

There are not many actual accounts of WSC aircraft ditching in water, but all accounts at stalling above the water or fl ying it in at minimum controlled airspeed stops the WSC aircraft abruptly and puts the occupants under water immediately. Depending on the speed, the WSC could tumble over the water before stopping. Another account of a BPS deployment provided a successful entry into the water. In any event, the pilot and passenger would most likely be under water immediately and disorientated. There are two alternate techniques that have been successfully used for ditching in the water:

  • Flying to the water and stalling just above the surface
  • Using the BPS

Stalling Just Above the Water’s Surface

With a stronger wind, fl ying to the water and stalling just above the surface is a viable alternative to landing in the water. It has been done a number of times successfully. The WSC aircraft should be fl own directly into the wind to slow down the groundspeed as much as practical. Once the wheels are close to the water surface just above minimum controlled airspeed, abruptly push the control bar out to enter the water at the slowest speed possible. Take a deep breath and hold it before hitting the water.

Using the BPS

An alternate water landing technique is to use the BPS. This should not be used in calm winds because the parachute would come down over the WSC aircraft and the lines could entangle the occupants during the escape. A slight breeze or greater wind (some ripples on the water) is needed for this technique so the parachute does not come down directly onto the WSC aircraft. Use the BPS deployment technique discussed earlier. Take a deep breath and hold it before hitting the water.

Once Under Water in the WSC Aircraft

Once in the water, immediately release the seat belt, free yourself and passenger of any restrictions, and swim to the surface. If disoriented, swim toward light or follow bubbles upward to the surface. The WSC will be sinking, so escape must be made quickly. The control bar must be pushed forward at all costs to release the pilot to exit the aircraft and swim to the surface. The forces of the water could push the control bar back and pin the front seat/pilot into the seat. If the landing is in shallow water, the pressure pinning the pilot into the seat may stop when the WSC aircraft sinks to the bottom.

Emergency Equipment and Survival Gear

For any fl ight away from the airport, basic supplies should be carried in case there is engine failure. At a minimum, supplies should include a mobile phone/radio for retrieval, clothes appropriate for the environment, ropes to tie down the WSC aircraft, cash/valid credit cards, and food/water.

In the case of fl ying cross-country or over remote areas, emergency equipment should be carried for a possible extended period of being stranded. In addition to the basics listed above, suplies for the appropriate time in the elements should be carried. Survival gear for protection from the elements should include clothing for hot and cold climates, as applicable. Without proper clothing, someone can die within hours from hypothermia or heat exhaustion. Water is also very important for survival. Food is important, but a person can survive over a week without it. Additional items to include are a knife, signal mirror, extra portable radio and batteries, emergency smoke/fl ares, and a large space blanket doubling as tarp.s

Other items specifi c to unique terrain and climate zone should also be considered. For mountain terrain, a saw, shovel, water purifi er, and 100-foot rope would be appropriate. For large bodies of water, fl otation devices, extra water, and a water purifi er would be added to the basic survival gear. If in desert conditions, bring a lot of water and hats for shade. In situations of extreme temperature changes, add both sun shading and layered clothing to the gear as appropriate.

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