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Beware flying LL over glassy sea

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Beware flying LL over glassy sea

Old 7th Nov 2015, 08:20
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Beware flying LL over glassy sea

Briton's death in vintage plane crash was 'accidental' - Telegraph

John Stephen Busby was taking a flight in the vintage World War II plane to celebrate his anniversary when it crashed into the sea off Texas, killing him and the pilot

The plane’s on-board video was analysed and the pilot, Keith Hibbert, 51, asked John if he wanted to fly the plane. Geophysicist John, from Woldingham, Surrey, said: “Yes I do, if you guide me through it. I’m not a pilot.”

The plane was then seen by fisherman Randall Groves descending towards the water at speed.

Mr Wickens said the "glass-like" quality of the water beneath them may have fooled the pilot into not realising just how low they were flying.
Recollect a Hastings captain remarking to his co-pilot how difficult it was to judge height above a glassy sea just before there was a bang and the two inner props were bent. They survived.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 09:33
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I think I've got the answer to this one.
'The aircraft crashed just moments after he took control of the wheel.'
Now, the last time I sat in a P51 cockpit, the 'wheel' was for elevator trim.

Seriously, one does have to wonder just what Hibbett, the pilot, was doing.
The coroner suggested that he'd 'lost situational awareness'.
Well, I guess that'd be pretty safe to say. Eh?

Sad, though. I feel for the poor chap's wife, particularly.

Last edited by Stanwell; 7th Nov 2015 at 09:51.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 10:24
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The pilot had I'm sure a perfectly serviceable altimeter with which to tell his altitude. If he was deluded by the glassy surface of the sea, it's because he wasn't maintaining adequate situational awareness.

If he's an instructor, he knew all the mechanisms for ensuring safety when handing control to a student. If he's not an instructor, he shouldn't have handed over control.

A tragic accident, but it's hard to see this as other than the consequences of misjudgement on the part of the pilot.

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Old 7th Nov 2015, 10:29
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Is this not the reason the RAF mandate a higher "floor" when doing display aerobatics over the sea rather than over land.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 10:33
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I have to say, as a non-pilot, that I would not be terribly keen to take control like that without quite a bit of altitude to cock it up in. It doesn't sound, from the article, as if there was much to play with at hand-over. What must the pilot have been thinking?
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 10:51
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Similar accident during the war to Australian fighter pilot ace "Bluey" Truscott.

28 March 1943 - Keith "Bluey" Truscott killed in the crash of a Kittyhawk in Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 11:16
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Depressingly easy trap to fall into - as the past record described shows - even on what seems like a nice day, easy conditions.

Quite a few years ago I was doing a short delivery flight in a crop sprayer. I was in loose formation with another aircraft, which had flown me to the pick up point and was now returning with me. We were doing a short water crossing heading North. Because the weather was nice we'd flown to cut the corner at the Forth and Tay estuaries, going over water around St Abb's Head. Sunny, calm, light clouds and light hazing in the distance, Quite suddenly I felt I had no reference except on the other aircraft. No horizon - the fuzzy haze, no visible surface because of the calm weather. The presence of a ship in my field of view, making smoke, made things worse, not better. Which way was it going, what was the smoke telling me, etc. Looking across at the distant coastline didn't help either - at what angle should it be? My companion aircraft started to turn gently, back towards the coast which somehow made my disorientation complete. I had to break away, use the limited panel to sort out straight and level and carefully turn back towards land, while descending slowly as straight and level as I could, with my senses telling me I was diving hard to starboard.

A couple of minutes later all was well and I was close enough to the coast to be happy that what I was seeing made sense again. But I felt a total fool, being only a few miles offshore in good visibility and losing the picture so easily. That taught me a lesson about over water flying. Insidious danger.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 11:58
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As an experienced Maritime Pilot, I had many hours flying at 100 feet over the sea, but with the benefit of a Radar Altimeter.

Then I became a QFI on Jet Provosts at Linton. One of the other QFIs had done a tour at Finningley, flying Nav students. He was the most experienced low level JP pilot at Linton.

One morning he was flying solo on Staff Continuation Training. The weather was hazy, calm wind and the reservoirs in the low flying area were like glass. I would not go near them.

He did, flew too low (authorised to 250 feet minimum) and in a turn dug a wingtip into the water and died. QED.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 13:18
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Neptune, I was thinking of exactly the same accident. Early morning weather check, Gouthwaite reservoir. I was with him earlier on the evening before the accident.

I was also at Gouthwaite earlier this year and quietly paid my respects to him, even though it must be 38 years ago.

RIP Flt Lt John Fox.

I vaguely recall another RAF accident, this time a Jaguar crashed after flying along a steep valley. The BOI concluded it was possibly the result of a visual illusion. The hillside had been planted with sapling fir trees, which the pilot may have thought to be fully grown trees, as per the other hillsides in the area. Using these as a reference, he flew far too low and suffered the inevitable consequences.

Another recollection: "Those sheep just down there aren't at all bothered by us low flying over them, are they?"

"Pull up you t**t, they're mushrooms!"

Last edited by ShyTorque; 7th Nov 2015 at 13:28.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 14:24
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Glassy water, or unbroken snow operations are a skill unto themselves. Glassy water landings are a requirement for a float rating - I was training them to a fellow yesterday. I will state that if you're not planning to land on it, you should not be within 150 feet of glassy water or unbroken snow by barometric altimeter (and radar altimeter is not a lot better). A glassy water landing is specifically set up have a rate of descent to the surface of 100-200 FPM, to contact, with no flare. Challenging in a floatplane, easier in a flying boat. But there is no other safe way, if the surface is your only available reference. Otherwise, you get tight into shore, for a reference.

The risk for those flying low over the water, without the intent to land on it, is that on those wonderful calm opportunities, which just draw you into flying that time for the sheer delight, you can get down [too] low to water with a light ripple, just perfect for reference, to have it instantly calm to glass when the light breeze stops, and you 'got nothin' for altitude reference. By the time you get back on to the altimeter ('cause you were not eyes in), and figure out what altitude would be safe, you've plowed in.

These are common accidents in floatplanes, and the training to recognize and avoid is thorough for float or ski flying. Unfortunately, wheelplane pilots don't get that training. Unbroken snow can be worse, because it can change altititude (elevation) under you. Elevation changes do occur on bodies of water, but it's very calm there!
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 17:13
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A friend of mine used to fly low enough to get wave-lift, which supposedly cut fuel consumption. If my understanding is correct, this means flying at less than half the wingspan above the water, without a rad alt. Luckily, I never flew with him.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 18:22
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A friend of mine used to fly low enough to get wave-lift, which supposedly cut fuel consumption. If my understanding is correct, this means flying at less than half the wingspan above the water,
Yes, I was training this yesterday, and there is a favourable affect. BUT, we do it over a surface with enough texture, that you can constantly assure your altitude, and in an aircraft/surface combination which will assure a safe landing if the engine quits.

Yesterday's objective was a 5 mile flight, with the keel 2 - 4 feet off the water. I'll occasionally fly my 150 with the wheels 3 feet or so off the ice of a frozen lake (upon which I already know I could land if necessary). I'll pick up 3 - 5 MPH doing that.

Doing that over glassy water, or unbroken snow is suicidal.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 19:03
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Another classic situation where it shows that if you want to be as safe a pilot as possible, you should never stop reading up on the activity. Accident reports, safety stories in magazines, etc.

We can't experience it all but we can get as much experience as possible by learning as much as possible. It is no guarantee but it definitely improves the odds. Sadly, many don't take this risky hobby seriously enough and the carnage that we see in general aviation is the result.

As mentioned above, floatplane fliers have likely done specific training for this but as a regular landplane pilot, you may not be familiar with thie phenomenon of glassy water or forgotten about it as it was a brief paragraph from private pilot training.

If you are going to fly low over the water, you will lose depth perception even on a beautiful day over smooth water. If you see reflections of clouds in it, for example, that is a good hint. Stay clear.

This accident was totally unnecessary. But it wouldn't surprise me if the pilot was unfamiliar with this phenomenon.

Read up and learn from others. Flying has endless dangers.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 21:00
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I faintly recall a Transport Canada Safety Letter where a Twotter in whiteout was losing airspeed while adding power.

Eventually the airspeed went to zero and they discovered they had flown into deep powder on an upslope
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 21:19
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I am sorry to say that Wave lift is something entirely different. A wave forms in the lee of a hill or mountain range and the wave pattern oscillated between ground and very high altitude. Commonly lenticular cloud forms at the peak of the waves and is seen as a stack of flying saucers stretching into the distance.

What you are referring to is ground effect.

Last edited by Rory166; 7th Nov 2015 at 21:21. Reason: identify who responding to.
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Old 7th Nov 2015, 22:53
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Another classic situation where it shows that if you want to be as safe a pilot as possible, you should never stop reading up on the activity. Accident reports, safety stories in magazines, etc.
You make an excellent point re never stop reading safety stories wherever you can find them.

Now that we have the internet there is no shortage of flight safety information. On the other side of the coin I have been disappointed at the absence of interest among flying instructors in passing on to their students the importance of reading flight safety material as a matter of professional development. This applies to airline pilots as well as commercial and private pilots. The importance of catching them young as students pilots is so important.

Several years ago a local air museum culled their library of years of flight safety magazines. I took away several bundles and gave them to local flying schools. I went back to these schools a few months later and saw these precious magazines still in a corner gathering dust with their tie ribbon still in place and the magazines obviously un-read.

Disillusioned, I rescued these magazines and took them home and now hand selected stories at each briefing of my flight simulator students who seemed happy to have them. I have been doing that for many years.
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Old 8th Nov 2015, 01:35
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Now that we have the internet there is no shortage of flight safety information
Which is exactly why this particular forum was created.

The key is to get the information from being the tribal knowledge of a select few, to being the basis of safe thinking for very many.

This week, I was hired by a fellow who purchased a Lake Amphibian to go to British Colombia, and train him to fly it. Wheels only for now, then water work, and his seaplane endorsement next spring. I spent each breakfast and dinner time with him, as much as I could recounting memorable events to convey wisdom about the aircraft, and its operation. To my delight, the now aging type training manuals, privately produced for these aircraft are filled with stories, examples, and accident reports on the type. I supplemented that with the more modern links to Youtube videos.

And, I flew a number of glassy water landings with him, for the first hand experience. It has been a difficulty in the system for the issuance of seaplane ratings, when during the brief term of the student's training, there is no occasion of glassy water, so the trainer shows how it is done, but cannot show why.

I have had a number of "regular" water landings, which have instantly become glassy water type, when the very light breeze creating the reference ripples stopped, and left only a mirror upon which to land.

A lake in northern Labrador, upon which I landed and camped, but the "Swiss cheese" holes start to line up, when you recall that this lake is nearly 300 miles from the nearest town or help. If you get it wrong, it's really wrong!

I landed into this lake in the mountains of British Colombia. There is no overshoot from this, you have to get it right. The aircraft is pointed in the landing direction.

But, once you're safely down, it's as smooth as, well... glass!

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Old 8th Nov 2015, 03:31
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Happens to the pros as well. Unfortunately, being in Nigeria, no report forthcoming, except for this vid.

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Old 9th Nov 2015, 07:13
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You are absolutely right about the need to never stop reading safety material - manufacturers' bulletins, learned articles, accident reports, stories in the bar, etc, etc - they are all essential.
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Old 16th Nov 2015, 06:42
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My cousin flew his RN helio into the sea way back. Low and fast returning from an exercise in calm conditions. He got out, but not the observer.

Early in WW11, the old man was stationed defending Scapa Flow. While flying a Master with a Sgt Pilot in the other seat, he noticed they were very low over the water. Low enough tos see prop wash on the surfaceHe grabbed to stick, only to find it loose. They both thought the other was flying the a/c..... Something got lost in the Gosport tubes.
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