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Flight Over Water

Amateurish wrote:

Was I being overly cautious? What do others think about minimising over water time vs travelling the shortest distance?

I will minimise overwater time within reason. That said, unless you are regularly flying over water, the additional risk from an overwater crossing is very, very, low.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Amateurish wrote:

Was I being overly cautious? What do others think about minimising over water time vs travelling the shortest distance?

No, you were doing the right thing.

Overwater in a single engine plane you can do two things planning wise:
- Minimize distance
- Maximize altitude

Both will give you shorter time out of gliding distance.

LSZH(work) LSZF (GA base), Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

Overwater in a single engine plane you can do two things planning wise:
- Minimize distance
- Maximize altitude

Yes, and prepare both physically and mentally for a swim. For me it’s a PLB and my inflatable vest.

Fly more.
LSGY, Switzerland

I don’t have an issue with flying over water because – in my mind – the engine doesn’t know it’s over water, will fly just as well as if over land – with one added bonus – if the engine stops, I’m not scratching around looking for a field which is smooth enough for me to carry out my forced landing. The aircraft I fly has a ’chute specifically for such an occurrence because if you try to ditch with fixed undercarriage, chances are, you will end up flipping – this is why so many light aircraft try to land on a beach, instead of ditching a little further out to sea – with the incumbent risk for any holiday makers…..

As I said, when descending under a ‘chute you’ll typically pancake onto the waves. This is comforting and also gives me time to prepare myself – eg ensure my life vest is secured, stuff important documents in a water proof bag inside my shirt, open both doors when nearer to the sea…… I typically fly across around FL065 and am always looking for ships; in case something does happen, I will glide towards them. You don’t realise how busy the North Sea is until you cross it lower down.

I can also view things from a statistical point of view – I recall the first time I flew directly across the North Sea from Cambridge to Midden-Zealand back in 2013, a second pilot decided rather than flying direct as I did, he would to fly down to Dover, coast out over towards Calais, then skirt up the coast, past Ostend to us. My flying time: 1hr 17mins. His time flying: just shy of 2hrs. Now, if we both have identical engines, aircraft, maintenance regimes etc, which aircraft is more likely to suffer some malfunction or other?The longer you fly, the more chance you have of a failure. Will a failure over land be less severe? The jury is still out on that one….

Last Edited by Steve6443 at 20 Jun 14:54
EDL*, Germany

Overwater in a single engine plane you can do two things planning wise:
- Minimize distance
- Maximize altitude

One more, if your airplane’s performance allows and not already at WOT:
- Increase your speed over the water section of your leg

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

Altitude over water is not just about gliding distance to land. Altitude equals VHF range, and it equals time to troubleshoot in case of engine problems. Flying high also improves the chances of gliding to ditch in front of a boat or ship, greatly increasing odds for rescue.

I cross 30 NM+ of open water 20 to 30 times a year in a SEP, and have done it for many years. I feel comfortable at an altitude that provides gliding distance to land most of the time, typically FL 80. And yes, a failure over land will be less severe, or more precise, a forced landing on land will carry a much smaller risk for me and my pax, than ditching.

Last Edited by huv at 20 Jun 17:27
EKRK, Denmark

There’s a lot of myths about ditchings based on “common sense” rather than on what actually happens. On this web site they’ve taken a close look at the statistics and debunked some of the myths – such as that of aircraft flipping over.

Personally, the ditching itself worries me much less than what happens after. But in any case, as long as only a small part of your flight time is overwater you have nothing to fear but fear itself. Of course that is important. We’re flying because it’s fun and if you worry about ditchings overwater flight won’t be any fun.

I would have a very different view if I lived on an island where every substantial flight would include an extended overwater part.

Last Edited by Airborne_Again at 20 Jun 17:51
ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Always try to make your own decisions, having involved all on board.
If you are swayed by others into doing something uncomfortable, imagine how uncomfortable it all gets if the thing you wanted to avoid or reduce risk for, actually happens.
Imagine if one of your passengers is injured when perhaps they would not have been? No one can say for sure, but you’ll have to ‘make your peace’ with any outcome.
I personally do fly over water but take less risky routes in the cold months, as I’m comfortable that I have planned for the best outcome from a ditching incident despite the serious lack of guarantees, but I’m very aware how immediately incapacitated one gets in freezing water.

United Kingdom

Flying long enough over water in a SEP, you will eventually have to ditch the plane. The problem is “enough” can be 10 minutes or 100k hours. No way of knowing.

The elephant is the circulation

One should always have a Plan B, and for GA this is a raft.

It is the same for twins; they go down quite often due to fuel issues. There is a line of twins on the seabed between the UK and Jersey (cheap avgas, but ideally you want to land there with nearly empty tanks) Quite a few have a single point of failure: the dual ignition switch. Ask @bookworm, though he’s long gone. They also get fuel icing – lots of previous posts here. The Aztec was a popular theme.

Make sure the raft is serviced every year or two, and never lend it to anyone. I learnt that one soon enough.

Take basic obvious precautions e.g. not switching tanks when out of glide range (if possible). Carry a handheld radio and an ELT/PLB. And stay in radio contact. And fly as high as possible; 1000ft = 1 minute.

Experienced piston ferry pilots, who ferry mostly old junk, abandoned by the seller, make sure they initially fly for an hour or two over land, before going over water. And they land near the coast and check the oil, etc.

Catastrophic failures are very rare.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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