Water Ditching

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Boeing stratocruiser ditching
Boeing Stratocruiser Flight 6

Nine intentional passenger and cargo airliner ditchings have been documented. These figures are for intentional water ditchings, usually as a result of in-flight fuel depletion, rather than an accidental overshoot of landing runway into a body of water. The following figures show survival rates for passengers and crew:

  • US Airways Flight 1549, an Airbus A320, New York City to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, 15 January 2009, made a controlled safe water ditch into the Hudson River after losing both engines due to running into a flock of birds at about 3000 feet altitude three minutes into the flight after a normal takeoff from LaGuardia Airport; 155 passengers and crew made an orderly evacuation as a NYC fireboat towed the floating aircraft with passengers standing on the wing, 100% survival rate (video of water landing [1])
  • Tuninter Air, Flt. 1153, August 6, 2005, of the coast of Sicily, 39 occupants, 23 survivors, 59% survival rate
  • Aeroflot Tupolev 124, October, 1963, Neva river, 52 occupants, 52 survivors, 100% survival rate
  • ALM DC9, May 2, 1970, the Caribbean, 63 occupants, 40 survivors, 63% survival rate
  • Ethiopian Air Lines Flight 961, a Boeing 767, ditched off the Comoros Islands on November 23, 1996. Of the 175 occupants 45 survived, for a 26% survival rate. (video of actual landing on water and reenactment by Captain and First Officer [2])
  • Miami Air Lease Convair CV-340, December 4, 2004, Mall lake, Florida, 2 occupants, 2 survivors, 100% survival rate
  • Northwest Orient Airlines Flt. 2, Boeing Stratocruiser, April 2, 1956, ditched in the 430 feet Puget Sound, 38 passengers, all survived the ditching but 5 could not recover the freezing waters, 87% survival rate.
  • Pan Am Flt. 6 Boeing Stratocruiser "Sovereign of the Skies", October 16, 1956, in the Pacific between Honolulu and San Francisco, 30 passengers and crew, 30 survivors, 100% survival rate.

See photos of the ditching of Pan Am Flt. 6 [3] Here is the Official Coastguard movie clip of the rescue in process [4].

  • Sept. 28, 1962, Flying Tiger's Super H Constellation passenger aircraft with a crew of 8 and 68 U.S. military (paratrooper) passengers ditched in the North Atlantic about 500 miles west of Shannon, Ireland after loosing three engines on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany. 45 of the passengers and 3 crew were rescued, with 23 passengers and 5 crew members being lost in the storm-swept seas. All passengers successfully evacuated the airplane. Those who were lost succumbed in the rough seas.

Water Ditching of Military Aircraft

  • Columbian AF C 130 Hercules, October 1982, en route between the Azores and Bermuda stayed afloat for 2 days

The average rate of survival for all the passenger planes listed above is 77%, although this varies widely: All passengers and crew survived US Airways Flight 1549, but all passengers and crew aboard Whyalla Airlines Flight 904 perished in the crash.[1]

KAL 007 comparisons

Summarized from the findings of the International Committee for the Rescue of KAL 007 Survivors

Based on reports that had come to the Israeli Research Centre for Prisons, Psychprisons, and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR, we believe that the passengers and crew, with their luggage, were boarded onto Soviet boats and ships and abducted. We believe these boats and ships to be both the coastal patrol boats under command of KGB General Romanenko and the civilian trawlers ordered to the rescue by Deputy Commander of the Far East Military District, General Strogov at 6:54 - just 16 minutes after KAL007 had descended to 1,000 feet, the altitude under which Soviet radar could not track. (See [5]). We believe, in accordance with the statement to Izvestia by Commander of the Soviet Pacific Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Vasilyevich Siderov, that "small boats" had already arrived at the site 27 minutes after KAL's set down ("crash", according to the Admiral - who also maintains that there were no bodies in the water). Furthermore, according to reports to Izvestia by amazed Soviet divers who had visited KAL 007 underwater just 2 weeks after the downing, no bodies were found on board or anywhere else (See [6]). And according to the Soviet official claims, there were no bodies found on the surface of the water at "impact" site (though the Soviets did return 213 fished out footwear - representing 74% of the 269 occupants of KAL 007! (See [7]) If, contrary to our belief, the passengers and crew of KAL 007 had not been rescued and abducted, and if, as in fact, there were no bodies found on top of the surface of the sea or found under the surface of the sea within KAL 007's wreckage, then there should have been live people, if not in KAL 007's own life rafts, then floating in the waters off Moneron Island until the arrival of the Soviet "small boats" - within one half hour. This is supported by the following survival manual survival rates for persons able to swim or who are wearing life jackets or who have use of some floating support, in waters of 50 degrees - the temperature of the waters off Moneron Island that morning:

Up to 50 minutes - Practically 100% survival Up to 3 1/2 hours - 50% survival Past 3 1/2 hours - Acceleratingly, down to 0% survival (figures are survival manual figures referred to in the Republican Staff Study)

But there were no people, living or dead found on or under the waters. Where, then, are our people?

a Credible Report

According to the Republican Staff Study (draft) 1991 Report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations[2] “sensitive special intelligence” (NSA intercepts) revealed the following: About four hours after the shoot-down, Soviet Air Defense command posts reported that Soviet pilots were saying that a civilian passenger plane had been shot down instead of a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance plane, and they (the command posts) were expressing regret, both that they had not downed the RC-135 and that now the Americans would accuse them of killing Americans.

The Study asks how, while flying overhead, could Soviet pilots conclude that Americans were among the passengers? They might conclude from seeing the aircraft’s distinctive hump as the plane floated on the water that it was a passenger plane that was shot down, as in 1983 there were no military versions of the Boeing 747. And they might have seen the distinctive bird emblem on the tail of the aircraft—the symbol in use then by Korean Air Lines—but this would not indicate the nationalities of the passengers. The Study would conclude that the only way Soviet pilots could know that Americans had been killed is if they had heard that information on their radios during the time the rescue was actually taking place.

“Thus the only way that Soviet pilots could possibly have identified the nationality of some of the KAL 007 passengers as Americans, from the air, would have been from possible emergency radio communications which U. S. Intelligence did not intercept, from either the stricken airliner ditched at sea, or from its life rafts, or from Soviet rescue boats.” Pg. 47


  1. Chivell, Wayne (24 July 2003). Findings of Inquest. airsafety.com.au.
  2. http://www.rescue007.org/republican_staff_study.htm

See also

External links