Ditching Depth


We never fly over water in our single engine Saratoga. However, on a flight from Key West to Fort Lauderdale several years ago, Flight Service advised me that everyone flies over the Florida Gulf because it is never more than three to five feet deep. So we did fly direct. Is he correct? If so, why did Amy Labodas plane sink (“A Different Ditching,” March 2009)?

David Shepherd,
Via e-mail


Amy ditched her Cessna 210 shortly after departing Key West, Fla. In that area, the Gulf of Mexico is relatively shallow but more than deep enough to sink a Cessna. The Gulfs deepest point is 14,383 feet below sea level. Are you thinking of the Everglades?

Errata I

In February 2009s article, “The First 400 Feet,” you may want to re-check the Minimum Climb Rates Required values shown in the table on page 8. It looks like, except for 90 knots groundspeed, all the vertical speed (fpm) values are for a 250 ft/nm climb condition versus the stated 200 ft/nm climb condition.

Great article, by the way; very helpful.

Bill Quinlan,
Via e-mail

Youre right, of course. An error crept in during the editing process. Heres a corrected table.

Errata II

No wonder we have so many fuel management-related accidents when you folks report a Cherokee 235 has a range of 2075 nm at a typical cruise speed of 136 knots. If Im mistaken, Id like 10 of them, please.

Chris Hester,
Frequent Fuel Stopper
Via e-mail

Well need your credit card number and other identifying information before we can deliver your 10 new Cherokees.

One-Eyed Man Is King

About the pilot hit with the searchlight (Learning Experiences, February 2009): He could have used the old pirate trick and kept one eye closed when he thought he was in danger of being lit up. He would have preserved the night vision in one eye. Its better than nothing.

David Goodin,
Via e-mail
Good suggestion. Thanks!

Brazilian ATC

As a Flying Tiger 747 captain in the early 1980s, I often flew into Manaus, Brazil, then on to Rio. I presume ATC has improved since then, but maybe not.

Even back then, communications were very iffy and there was a lot of slop. Many times we were cleared to land at Manaus when we were 200 miles out at cruise altitude. Other times we could not raise anybody so we just went VFR through descent and landing. We would transmit in the blind on 121.5 our intentions and position.

All airlines familiar with the drill would have landing lights on in Brazilian airspace no matter what their altitude was.

Larry Partridge,
La Conner, Wash.

Accident Briefs

As a long time reader, Ive always been disappointed the brief, factual paragraphs of each months Accident Briefs leave readers wondering what went wrong. My whole purpose in reading these, and other accident reports, is to find out who or what screwed up so that I may not go there.

I would vote for delayed reporting of accidents, going back further in time, if that would provide a greater chance of a proximate cause determination. I would find a report of an older accident with a known cause more meaningful to me than a recent one with fact findings only, such as “airplane off side of runway after loss of power for unknown reasons.”

Steve Wagner,
Via e-mail

A couple of thoughts: First, we try to include enough information for readers to determine for themselves what happened and why. Our objective isnt merely to recite the facts surrounding each event but to encourage readers to consider what went wrong and how they themselves might have handled the situation. Between aircraft type, time of day, weather and other descriptive information, theres usually plenty of detail.

Second, each months entries are preliminary reports, published by the NTSB well before a probable cause finding has been made. Since the NTSB is the organization legally responsible for investigating aircraft accidents in the U.S., anything we might suggest would be pure speculation, especially since we dont have the NTSBs resources or experience.

Land On A Taxiway?

I read with interest Rick Durdens article on managing crosswind landings, but found his comment about using a taxiway as a viable landing facility totally surprising. Ive been flying for about five years and was not aware that one could land on a taxiway provided there were no obstructions or traffic conflicts, etc.

Almost all of my time (700-plus hours) is in tailwheel aircraft. And, you know how challenging those machines can be in a strong crosswind. So my question then becomes, what about a closed runway?

Many older airports designed with the typical three intersecting runways will often have one of them decommissioned and out of service. And in many cases they are now taxiways. But, the closed runway is still there and viable as a landing surface.

Can one legally use a closed runway for a landing? Or, is that only reserved for declared emergencies?

F. Paul Russo,
Via e-mail

Author Rick Durden responds: In my opinion, choosing to make a landing on a closed runway in the event of a very strong crosswind because of concern about ability to control the airplane on the open runway is a different situation than landing on an open, maintained taxiway under such conditions. Because landing on a taxiway is not a violation of the FARs, the decision to do so is probably going to be made at a lower level of “concern” on the pilots part over control of the airplane and available alternatives.

If the pilot is not confident he or she can safely land on the open runway in the wind conditions, and there are no good alternatives (e.g., other airports, holding until the wind drops), then the pilot is facing an emergency. That being the case, the pilot may do what is necessary to protect everyone on board. If that means landing on a closed runway, so be it.

However, because the pilot may not know the reason for the closure, there could be a significant risk. Construction may make it untenable; workers on the runway may mean putting them at risk.

A number of World War II-era airports were built with several runways but, due to the upkeep costs, some of their runways are closed today. Also, some of the closed runways now are active taxiways, so landing shouldnt be a problem. Others vary in condition from pretty good to only passable in four-wheel drive in grandma-low gear, thus information on the runways condition becomes critical.

A short answer is: Absent an emergency, landing on a Notamd closed runway is generally considered a violation of the regulations and to be avoided. Closed runways may be closed for any number of reasons and may be a poor choice of landing site due to the condition of the runway.

In my opinion, it doesnt require an emergency situation to warrant landing on a taxiway that is open and clear of obstructions; it does take an emergency to warrant landing on a closed runway.


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