Friend won't fly over water


What is the chances of survival of a water landing in a tricycle single engine aircraft?

A conservative private pilot friend of mine (400hrs?) is pretty objective to flying over water (no gliding distance to land) in a single engine. He might consider in a single engine retractable landing gear, but out of the question for no retracts in a single. We were even street legal with life preservers over Lake Michigan in an PA-28R a few months back.

I know the risks go up with each step, but seriously, should this prevent a holiday excursions to the Bahamas or elsewhere? :frowning:

Thanks for any feedback.


All pilots have their own limitations. I know guys who don’t even like to fly at night without two engines.


May be more to it then just flying over water. Pilot may be recognizing his own flying limits, outstanding in my eyes.

I have not flown over that kind of distance over water but with no options for emergency outside ditching doesn’t sound like very much fun to me and I am approaching 1000 hours of single engine. Largest body of water I flew over was Lake Pontchartrain on an approach into KNEW and I felt slightly squeamish knowing when I was in the middle I wasn’t within glide path of land.

I probably would defer flying to the Bahamas to the jet jockeys and reserve myself to the back seat enjoying the view from a porthole of a window.


When I was younger and Invincible, I racked up about 4,000 hrs in a single engine, doing low level work, in a very unfriendly environment where an engine failure would most likely be fatal.

Now I don’t fly at night, over water or IFR unless I have two engines.
I tend to try and eliminate risk rather than accept it.


Ok, I understand everyone’s feedback 100%. Very wise and prudent.

So now even I’m concerned about this - what really are the chances of survival of ditching a tricycle in the water? I don’t mean chances of floating on the water for days without rescue, or even rough water. I mean, if you ditched a tricycle on a calm day in a smooth lake with waist and shoulder straps secure… what will the plane do? Will it flip and kill you instantly or, could you slow it enough and stall it soft and… not impact too hard? Maybe rough landing, lost plane, but have you got a chance to get out and keep fighting for life?


I don’t think its the chances of surviving ditching that is the concern, but the chances of an engine failure that could result in a ditching. For taking the a little bit longer way around, you dramatically reduce the chances of wrecking the airplane, and hurting yourself.

As for what the plane will do, there are too many variables. There have been successful ditchings where the aircraft stayed up right, and others where it has flipped inverted and sank. I would say your largest risk is not being able to get out of the aircraft before it sinks, or cartwheeling and receiving trauma type injuries.

Then there is the problem of being stuck in the water for an extended period of time before being found. Hypothermia is still a risk, even in warm waters. Even if the water is 80 degrees, a few hours of exposure will cause hypothermia.


Just by chance reading some GA blogs found this:
(direct to YouTube:

Plane did flip, note 2 min sink.
Location: Put-in-Bay, OH

(I’m sure there are tons of these with success and failures, I just noticed this coincidentally today.)


I too have flown several thousand hours in a single in an environment that was unfriendly.

your friend is being cautious and there is no problem with that. He is a private pilot and really has a choice. When you go to work for someone you really have no choice… :cry:

when I was in Manaus yesterday I seen a C206 with a November tail number and I though to myself- there is no way I’d fly that far over a jungle in a single, that dude has some balls…


Flip a coin. Even money it was either missionaries or druggies.


You have to know your own limitations and that, of course, greatly varies with experience. I will fly at night and over water. But if I’m flyin a single engine over alot of water, say to the Bahamas, I’m going to include over water gear - jacket, raft, rations, etc. (which in turn, gives you practice on max loading calculations).
It’s preparing for the worst and hoping you never need it.


i have lost 3 engines in the past 8000 hrs all in multi engine aircraft 2in the appalachian mts (day vfr) 1king air low imc they would have all probably been fatal in a single engine plane so not saying i don’t fly singles but i am very cautious when and where i do.


At many airports the first 500’ of altitude is a time when there is no where to go and chance of survival slim. I have friends who won’t fly at night but they’ll depart here.


Have you tried Flabob in a high performance complex? That’s a good one like Fullerton. Make a visit to the cafe.


AOPA Summit last week. 80%

Low wing, high wing, fixed gear and retract.


I’ve been to Flabob several times.


Does this count as low and over water? On second thought it doesn’t have a training wheel. … /KPWK/KFDY


I’d do that in that bird, VFR, not IFR


I figured I would hear from you on that one. I agree although a higher altitude would be nice.


I can’t think of many singles or airports where you can’t land straight ahead if the engine craps out between Vr and 400’AGL. Most singles including the PC-12 will be above 400’ AGL within the fence at most airports and able to turn around to land. All singles have a relatively low stall speed. Landing ahead or turning back may not be pretty but everyone should be able to walk away, as with any car wreck on city streets.


You won’t fly over water, but driving down a two lane road at night with a combined closure speed of 120mph is O.K. not knowing weather the other driver is drunk or not. Is that safe?