[FPSPACE] Shuttle water landing.

John Abbey jpabbey@atlantic.net
Tue, 10 Jun 2003 23:20:30 -0400

As a pilot since 1944 and current (mostly light aircraft), I  have
a strong statment about any aircraft water landing, shuttle,
Boeing 747, Cessna 172, Piper Aztec.  Most landings will be
disasters.  Off the top of my head, I believe there been only three
successful landings of transport type aircraft with some survivors.
Water is a very hard substance to an approaching aluminum
structure.  But, more relistically, water is usually in motion (waves &
swells) making it difficult to slip onto the surface safely.  Remember,
airplane flies because it gets lift from air moving over the wings.  To
this movement, cruising or landing, the plane must be moving, for the
shuttle, maybe 180 knots or it will drop out of the sky.  So contact
the water at 180 knots will not be soft.  And a very important addition,

a plane such as the shuttle has low wings.  Therefor, when a low wing
aircraft approaches the water at, say 180 knots, invariably, one wing or
other, will contact the water first.  And the result will be a huge
force, with one wing digging into the water causing the airframe to be
thrown into a destructive arc breaking up the airframe.  Remember, to be
you are moving at 180 knots and with one wing digging into the almost
immovible water mass, the will be survivors.  And in my daily flying
with commercial aircraft, the same philosophy holds.  The flotation
under the seat will never be needed.

John P Abbey
Melrose, Fl