• What should a pilot do to perform a successful emergency water landing, also known as ditching of a big commercial jet?

  • Is there any checklist, or best practices, like "elevate the nose" or "retract the landing gear", to make it safer?

  • Are commercial Jets buoyant?

ditching http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/mt/flightglobalweb/blogs//learmount/Ditching.jpg

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    $\begingroup$ As I mentioned in the related question, there is a ditching checklist and the plane is certified for ditching. That report mentioned that reaching the required conditions were extremely difficult with no engine power, so that suggests it is fairly difficult. Also, that plane clearly floated. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Commercial aircraft will float for at least long enough for everyone to get out (90 seconds) and onto the emergency slides/rafts, $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


What should a pilot do?

Follow the checklist?

Is there any checklist?

There are many such checklists in the intertubes and whole books have been written on the subject

Here's the start of one for 737s

enter image description here

For comparison, here's one for a Cessna light aircraft

enter image description here

Are commercial jets buoyant?

Yes, initially, if substantially in once piece. We know that because several intrepid pilots have tested this idea (obligatory hat-tip to Sullenberger).

It makes sense that the fuel tanks in the wings, especially once emptied of fuel, are buoyant. The wings are obviously capable of supporting the fuselage. The fuselage is a pressurised tube and should be buoyant too, until the passengers and crew start making large holes in it.

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    $\begingroup$ what's the next page say, "pray to your favourite deity"? $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ @RedGrittyBrick: Remember full fuel tanks are also bouyant! Avgas and Jet-A float on water. For sure, the full fuel tank is not as bouyant as an empty one... but fuel floats! $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @SkipMiller: Good point (though I guess it's the average density including metal skin and other parts that counts). I've inserted some words to suggest what you said. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ @RedGrittyBrick Gotcha. I didn't mean that it negatively affected your answer. It illustrated your point and was a valid example of the existence of checklist procedures for ditching. As I pilot I just didn't like that particular checklist myself :) $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ One to add to your own checklists - partially open the doors before touching down, and open the ASAP after landing... the differential pressure can be an absolute bitch to overcome once water is pressing on the outside of the doors $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 13:15

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