DITCHING

DITCHING
Ditching is a special term for a water landing of an aircraft. This is a normal landing for amphibious aircraft, while others perform ditching only in critical situations, most of which are connected either with fuel, or with engines or landing gear problems. Majority of modern jet aircraft models have engines-under-the-wing-scheme, which makes belly-landings and ditchings very dangerous and complicated because in such cases engine nacelles hit the surface of land or water first, greatly increasing the friction and drag and can cause fire or engine (or the wing) detaching. It is obvious that landing onto a river is more safe than onto a sea/ocean, because in most cases high waves could cause a lot of troubles for a safe ditching. At least 19 passenger aircraft in distress performed ditching within past 60 years, but only few were successful. Although commercial pilots are not usually trained to ditch, flight attendants are taught the evacuation procedure. All aircraft flying over open sea must have individual life jackets and life rafts for groups of passengers. Some aircraft are designed with the possibility of a water landing in mind. Airbus aircraft, for example, feature a \»ditching button\» which, if pressed, closes valves and openings underneath the aircraft. It is meant to slow flooding in a water landing.

 

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21.08.1963 Neva river ditching.

On that day Tupolev-124 aircraft with 45 passengers and 7 crew on board performed flight from Tallinn to Moscow. After liftoff the crew discovered that the nose gear was not fully retracted, but the fog in Tallinn forced the plane to fly to Pulkovo. In order to burn fuel Tu-124 started to circle over Leningrad, but the crew was so focused on solving the gear-problem, that they didn\’t notice how fuel was completely exhausted and both engines stopped. Luckily the captain Viktor Mostovoy managed to ditch the plane on Neva between two bridges. None of the occupants suffered any injuries; all were rescued by tugboats and other ships.

 

\"\"23.11.1996 Ethiopian Airlines hijack.
On 23rd of November 1996 group of three Ethiopians hijacked Boeing-767 performing flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi shortly after take off. They penetrated the cockpit, took the fire extinguisher and an axe, and threatening to blow up the aircraft, stated that they were government\’s enemies and demanded to fly to Australia for asylum. Captain Leul Abate (whose aircraft had been hijacked  two times already) tried his best to persuade terrorists to reconsider, explaining that the aircraft didn\’t have fuel enough even for a quarter of the distance to Australia, but hijackers didn\’t believe him and kept on showing him an in-flight magazine, where it was said that a Boeing-767 was able to perform 11-hour journey. Captain Abate realized that hijackers were psychologically unstable, intoxicated and unable for conversation, so he decided to secretly fly to Comoro islands (between Madagascar and African mainland) to try to land there after fuel would run out. Due to hijackers\’ aggressive behavior, the crew had no real chance to land the aircraft at the airport, so, it forced them to ditch the plane onto the ocean, 500 m from the shore. Though the impact was really hard, many passengers were alive, but some of them inflated their life-jackets in the cabin, causing them to be trapped inside by rising water. Only 50 passengers and crew (from 175) survived in that accident.

 

\"\"15.01.2009 Hudson River miracle.
On that day US Airways A-320 with 150 passengers on board hit flock of birds shortly after take off from La Guardia airport in New York. Aircraft lost power of both engines at almost 1000-meter height. The crew had no other option but to try to ditch the fully loaded Airbus in Hudson, which was successfully performed 3 minutes after the bird strike. The aircraft stayed afloat (though one of engines was torn off) and no one was seriously injured. Everyone was saved by boats and ferries right away.
11.07.2011 Antonov-24 ditching in Ob.
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On 11th July 2011 an Antonov-24 performing flight from Tomsk to Surgut at 6000 m caught fire in port engine due improper maintenance. The application of both fire extinguishers failed to extinguish the fire, so the crew decided to ditch the aircraft onto Ob river. Upon water contact the tail section separated and burnt engine got detached from the wing. 7 passengers died and 30 people were rescued.

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