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10 October 2011

Ditching and large commercial airliners

7 October 2011, Cessna 310, near Hawaii: Last week, the US Coast Guard rescued a pilot who was forced to ditch his small twin engined aircraft near Hawaii. The pilot, who was flying solo from Monterey, CA, contacted the FAA when he was about 500 miles from Hawaii, estimating that he would run out of fuel about 100 miles short of the island chain. The FAA contacted the Coast Guard, which dispatched an two aircraft and a ship to help guide the pilot to a successful ditching. The 65-year-old pilot was not seriously injured. Below is a dramatic video, provided by Coast Guard of the ditching and rescue.

Video highlights of the ditching and rescue

While aircraft ditchings happen many times each year, typically it only involves small private aircraft or military aircraft. Ditchings involving commercial airliners are by contrast very rare, defines ditching as an event where the flight crew intentionally lands an aircraft in some body of water such as a lake, a river, or the open ocean, and the water is so deep that if the aircraft sinks, at least some of the occupants have to evacuate the aircraft to avoid drowning.

Since 1960, has identified just four events involving commercial jet airliners that met this definition. The latest, and by far the most famous, was the "Miracle on the Hudson" ditching involving a US Airways A320 in 2009. While just about every modern airliner has life vests and other emergency equipment to deal with an emergency water landing, it is very, very unlikely that any passenger will every experience an intentional ditching.

Jet airliner ditching events ditching definition