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SEP over water - do you? And if so how far will you go?

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SEP over water - do you? And if so how far will you go?

Old 14th Mar 2016, 22:44
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SEP over water - do you? And if so how far will you go?

I've just returned to flying after a bit of a break and I'm looking for things to do - trips to undertake, qualifications to add etc to keep the passion alive, broaden my skill set and keep the accuracy up, rather than get stale flying local VFR trips.

A couple of trips I'm idly considering are a trip to the Isle of Man for the TT races this summer - to provide moral support to someone I know racing there, to nip down to Le Sarthe to watch the Le Mans classic, and to pop across to the Scillies to meet a chum who's sailing there.

All require an overwater leg. The Scillies is the shortest at about 30 miles, the IoM would be 40-45 and the cross channel from the SW is 100-120 miles.

I did a cross channel check ride years ago. I was nervous then about an overwater flight in a fixed undercarriage aircraft - if the donkey stops the ditching options are exceptionally limited. Now I'm older and allegedly wiser, it still doesn't fill me with joy.

And yet I suppose when I add night or IMC ratings my ditching options are going to be very limited, and any flying over mountainous terrain also leaves few options. And so far the noisy oily spinny bits have kept being noisy, oily and spinny... And the MTBF is pretty high with aero engines.

So I guess it's all in my head. Fear of sinking, trapped in an upturned cockpit or something. So what's a normal approach to over water flights in a SEP? Do you guys limit yourself to 'within gliding distance of land' or are you all grizzled ferry pilots with countless North Atlantic crossings under your belt? Or perhaps somewhere in between? How do you mitigate the risk when flying in any 'limited landing options' environment?
Airbornestu is offline  
Old 14th Mar 2016, 23:46
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Hi Airbornestu,

I have done quite a few Channel crossings, but most of them were in the South East of England Lydd - Le Touquet was a really common route for me (partially because I am based out the south east, and partially because I have this fear that you're talking about).

The way I look at it is, I will fly as high as I can (within reason) in order to limit the unlikely event of having to ditch (by having greater glide distance). Or that should I have to ditch, I would endeavour to have as much time as I can to at least attempt an engine restart / change tanks / call mayday and find a big ship nearby to get them to pick me up (and maybe prepare a couple of margueritas for my arrival). When I cross the Channel by the Isle of Wight to over Cherbourg, I try to climb to 10,000' because I've calculated that my risks were substantially lower up high than they were down low. [probably overkill looking back although the cloud tops were around 9,500' so I guess it worked out pretty well!].

A friend of mine does the long crossings at 4 or 5000' and say "Well, that still gives me plenty of time to restart". He has done numerous crossings into IoM and over into Ireland from there too, although I understand that he climbs to 10k - 14k on a regular basis to do so.

I've never been the Isles of Scilly, but that's definitely on my list! Hopefully soon!

Good luck with the night & IMC ratings! They've boosted my confidence dramatically, I hope they will boost yours too!
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 01:19
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The ability to glide to safety is critical, and that means height.
A VP prop is a big help here, if you pull the blue knob all the way out a 182 will glide a LOT farther than a 172. Be prepared, know the correct speed and settings for best glide range and be prepared to waste some time climbing over land to make sure that you will have enough height and some to spare by the time you get to the halfway point.

If the distance over water is longer hire a proper immersion suit and dinghy and get properly traind to use them. Always carry a good quality rescue beacon and get your mayday call in ASAP while you have the height to be in radio range of help.
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 07:13
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Flying is all about risk management and in an SEP there are obviously risks flying over water.
You can minimise those risks by not flying over water on windy days where those pretty white bits 2000 feet below are 20 foot waves close to.
Fly as high as you can! Note the position of boats and ships and wind direction
The chances of a complete engine failure are small and more likely a loss of power so keep an eye on the engine gauges , fuel quantity and if you have carb heat check regularly.
Don't set off late in the day where should you go down there is a short time till darkness and search and rescue will have problems
Talk to someone and preferably be on radar
But it is risk management and some are prepared to take more risk than others
I don't like SEP at night and must admit admire the guts of those who do long ferry flights in SEP planes over the North Atlantic
Unless you stay within the UK you have to fly a water crossing and I have done in the past many times but its amazing how a normally smooth engine always sounds rough over water especially the mid part

There are irrational fears where we can talk you out of it and get you to look at things in a different way and there are rational fears. This is a rational one so all anyone can do is minimise the risk and take the chance how big a chance or how long a crossing is up to you

Or reduce it further by flying a Cirrus

Pace

Last edited by Pace; 15th Mar 2016 at 07:53.
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 07:52
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Originally Posted by Pace View Post
Flying is all about risk management and in an SEP there are obviously risks flying over water.
You can minimise those risks by not flying over water on windy days where those pretty white bits 2000 feet below are 20 foot waves close to.
Fly as high as you can! Note the position of boats and ships and wind direction
The chances of a complete engine failure are small and more likely a loss of power so keep an eye on the engine gauges , fuel quantity and if you have carb heat check regularly.
Don't set off late in the day where should you go down there is a short time till darkness and search and rescue will have problems
Talk to someone and preferably be on radar
But it is risk management and some are prepared to take more risk than others
I don't like SEP at night and must admit admire the guts of those who do long ferry flights in SEP planes over the North Atlantic
Unless you stay within the UK you have to fly a water crossing and I have done in the past many times but its amazing how a normally smooth engine always sounds rough over water especially the mid part

Pace
I fly the channel once or twice a month in a SEP and would support everything that has been posted above plus:

Carry a GPS linked PLB such as a McMurdo Fast Find (on your body, not in your flight bag!) where you can get at and activate it easily.

Wear a life jacket: you won't have time to don it on your way down to a ditching.

Keep a life raft close to hand where you can get it out easily. When I'm single pilot, I keep mine on the passenger seat strapped in by the seat belt together with a water proof, buoyant, ditching bag containing my hand held radio as well as dry clothes and shoes.

Do a ditching course: it's a real eye opener!

When flying the crossing, I keep my No 2 GPS tuned to the nearest airport and monitor it so I'll know immediately the heading and distance and whether it's in glide range or not if the engine fails.

All that said: there's no greater probability of something going wrong over the sea than at any other time (although, as Pace has said: my engine also has a warped sense of humour, seems to know when it's over water, and tries to wind me up by making funny noises every time I fly the channel!).
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 08:15
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I have crossed the Atlantic 6 times in a SEP.

I agree with the above, be sensible about it and it's a very good risk (at least the Channel, IOM etc), but these things are subjective.

It's up to you.
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 09:00
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A VP prop is a big help here, if you pull the blue knob all the way out a 182 will glide a LOT farther than a 172
I though in most VP aircraft oil pressure was used to take the prop to the coarse position, with the springs taking it to full fine - if the engine fails won't your oil pressure disappear and thus the prop go fine regardless, or is the windmilling prop turning the engine going to produce enough pressure?
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 09:13
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I will add as a scuba diving enthusiast that the sea is a very powerful unforgiving force! Close too you see that energy that power and have to respect it
At 2000 to 5000 feet cocooned in a nice warm invirinment it's unreal!
The shock of one minute being in that vertically distant environment and meeting the Cold sea at close quarters In a ditching must be immense !
Maybe knowing the sea at close quarters makes you more aware ? What do others who sail think ?
I have a friend who years ago was ferrying a Cessna SEP over the North Atlantic he had a fuel transfer problem and ended up with a stopped engine in IMC 200 miles from land
He spiralled down breaking cloud 500 feet ASL and above the only fishing boat in a 100 miles
He was picked up and had to help for the rest of the fishing trip before going back to port days later! How lucky was He ??

Pace
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 09:13
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Avoid launching out over water with an aircraft that's just out of maintenance. I survived an engine failure through sheer luck and a modicum of skill.


I still fly over water, well beyond gliding distance to solid ground, but only in aircraft I have faith in.
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 09:24
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I used to do it - IOM, cross channel, but that was when I was young and immortal. Later, I had a re-think and decided SEP over water isn't an acceptable risk. Why? Because one dictum I have stuck to in 30 odd years flying is 'always have an out'.

If the engine fails over land, your 'out' is a forced landing which should have a pretty good chance of turning out OK as long as you don't fly over miles of forest or somewhere else unlandable.

Over water, especially around UK, if the engine fails you are probably going to die. Especially in a Chipmunk (fixed gear, no space for a dingy etc). Even in a retractable with a dingy your chances are a bit better, but not that much.

So will the engine fail? Almost certainly not. But how lucky do you feel, punk? A piston engine is a mass of reciprocating and rotating parts all eager to part company with each other, with a thin film of pressurised oil preventing the whole thing seizing up. That they work at all is a marvel. I've had them fail and I know folk who've had quite a few fail. It does happen.

And when it does.... where's your 'out'?
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 10:01
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19 solo single-engine Atlantic crossings. Got more sense now. Le Touquet or Alderney is as far as I'll go in a single these days.

SND
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 10:22
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SND

19 crossings ? I have done them in the luxury of a jet high level and even then the expanse of ocean is huge. Often thought of the poor guys and girls flying SEP way below very slow.
with Piston failures I have had you have more guts than me

A piston engine is a mass of reciprocating and rotating parts all eager to part company with each other, with a thin film of pressurised oil preventing the whole thing seizing up. That they work at all is a marvel. I've had them fail and I know folk who've had quite a few fail. It does happen
Pace
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 11:33
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Yes, many times over the years, with caution, and preparation. Higher is possible, full floatation suit if the water is anything cooler than tropical, and a life jacket in any case.

Funny, when I was type trained in a Bell 206 helicopter on floats, the flight manual supplement for the floats actually said to avoid flight over land!
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 13:21
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An elderly pilot back in the 70s ferried a Tomahawk from the USA to Manchester for The Manchester School of Flying(MSF)

I never got to speak to him but some people in here might have done.

I did do Manchester to Dublin Via IOM years back with P1FEL in a Cherokee and A.N Other following.The CFI waved us off with the encouraging words that engines don't know they are over water do they.
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 13:25
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engines don't know they are over water do they.
Never heard of 'automatic rough'?
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 14:03
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A lot is psychological )) how many of you relax when you see a distant shoreline or even the line of cumulus which marks the shoreline before you see it
Way out of gliding range but still just the sight of that destination relaxes you
IOM always has a big blob of cloud marking it on even blue sky glorious days

Pace
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 14:41
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The CFI waved us off with the encouraging words that engines don't know they are over water do they.
The only time I flew a great distance (as a pax on a SEP) I thought the same thing as I was concerned about engine reliability.
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 15:07
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If you are planing a trip over water do the maths first. If you take the short crossing, it is 18.25nm. What height do you plan, what is typical wind, what is your aircraft's glide performance. For my aircraft I am typically out of gliding range for 90sec. Do the same for the north sea and the numbers are not so good.

Do not assume you will be able to get into a dingy unless you have had specialist training. Tests done by Plymouth Uni showed that almost nobody without training will get in in open water. The tests were done using fit young students who were expecting to get wet, not your old overweight average PPL who will suffer temperature shock from a nice warm cockpit to UK sea temp.

I keep my crossings as short as possible and fly as high as I can.

Rod1
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 16:47
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"Never heard of 'automatic rough'?"

Plenty of that on the golf course I play on.
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Old 15th Mar 2016, 17:03
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Don't do it ! I won't cross Clapham Common pond.
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