Seaplane Safety Week – Collision With Water

Transport CanadaSubmerged aircraft. (Source: Ontario Provincial Police)

Seaplane Safety Week – Collision With Water

Safety Week

Submerged (Source: Ontario Provincial Police)

On May 24, 2014  a privately-registered Cessna 185E (registration C-FYKU, serial number 185-1484), equipped with amphibious floats, departed the Guelph Airpark for a flight to Taylor Lake, Ontario. The pilot was the sole occupant of the aircraft. While conducting a glassy water landing, the floats dug into the water, the pilot lost control, and the aircraft cartwheeled and sank.

The lake is approximately 1.2 nm long, 700 feet wide and has a northeast to southwest orientation. The aircraft’s approach was stable and the landing was conducted in a southwest direction. The aircraft touched down at approximately 0740 in the center area of the lake, about 1500 feet from the northeast end (approach end). There was no wind on the morning of the occurrence and the water surface conditions were smooth and glassy.

The aircraft touched down approximately level to the surface of the water with the right float slightly lower than the left. The floats then dug in causing the aircraft to cartwheel and flip inverted. The aircraft sank quickly and only the floats remained visible on the surface. Bystanders immediately proceeded to the submerged aircraft and attempted to rescue the pilot, but were unable to open the doors and get the pilot out. Ontario Provincial Police divers recovered the pilot’s body several hours later.

There is no record of the pilot receiving egress training, and there currently is no regulatory requirement for this type of training in private or commercial float-plane operations.

Technical Design Considerations

The two cabin doors served as the only available emergency exits. The door lock mechanism included a recessed lever-type exterior door handle that was flush with the door when closed, and a conventional L-shaped interior door handle. The Cessna 185 owner’s manual Before Take-off Check List states that the cabin doors are to be locked during flight. Cessna indicated that the primary reason for locking the doors during flight is to prevent inadvertent opening due to fuselage flexure.

TSB Aviation Investigation Report A05O0147 included the following information with regards to door design:

By design, when the door is locked from the inside, it cannot be opened from the outside.

Cessna indicated the following:

As part of the aircraft design, testing and certification processes, safety issues relating to egress from the aircraft were considered at various stages. A variety of competing risks, safety factors and scenarios are evaluated through these processes. For example, risks associated with unexpected and/or unwanted opening of the doors are balanced against countervailing concerns such as access from outside the aircraft, with the goal being the development of a design that provides the best overall safety for the public.

Remark: The same design is currently being used in all new production single-engine Cessna aircraft.

Over the years, the TSB has conducted numerous safety studies and issued Safety Recommendations, Aviation Safety Advisories and Safety Information Letters addressing egress issues and survivability in the seaplane industry.  For example, the TSB Aviation Investigation Report A12O0071 states:

According to past research into accidents where helicopters were submerged in water, typically only 10% to 15% of people are able to carry out the required egress actions effectively. Another 10% to 15% of people typically fail to act from the extreme stress, greatly reducing their chance of survival. The remaining 75% may be stunned or shocked by the event; however, most are able to escape successfully if they are well trained and have rehearsed for such an event. Restrictions to normal exits, water temperature, darkness and disorientation following water impact further reduce the ability to egress. Escape training and passenger briefings emphasize the importance of memorizing exit locations.

About Seaplane Safety Week

The purpose of the Seaplane Safety Week here at serves one single purpose: Highlight and emphasize the need for continued training, currency and proper technique for the conditions at hand. The text comes straight from the horses mouth, with no opinion or spin added and shall serve the reader as a resource for learning from previous accidents and incidents. The selection of accidents is random and we appreciate your submissions for consideration.