Emergency landing on water ?

Date:         01 Dec 96 04:08:54 
From:         cip583@wpax01.physik.uni-wuerzburg.de (Alexander Weber)
Organization: University of Wuerzburg, Germany
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In German Television we could see some days ago the crash/emergency
landing on water of the hijacked Ethiopian Airlines B767 near the
beach of a Comoras Island. (It was filmed by tourists on the beach.)

The plane approached the water surface in a 'normal' angle, but while
the fuselage was still in the air, the left wingtip and shortly later
the left engine touched the water. This forced the aircraft to turn to
the left (about 90 deg) and when the fuselage touched the ocean with
its long side first the plane broke up.

Now my question: is it possible to 'land' a normal passenger aircraft
on water so that it not breaks up and stays some time on the surface
to evacuate all people on board (like it is described in the safety
information of all airlines)? Did it ever happen and what are the
'chances of success'?

I imagine that the weather conditions will play a big role for the
chances of success as well as the full control of the aircraft by the

In the case of the fiasco near Comoras Islands the weather appeared
fine (full visibility, no/small waves on the water) and because they
ran simply out of fuel there is no reason to assume any other
technical problem. I could also see a fuel-explosion at the rear of
the aircraft while it broke up, so I assume the APU was still working
and they had still electricity and hydraulics to control the plane
(eyewitness reported they heard that at least one engine was off, but
there was a little engine noise - the APU?).

>From what I heard in news, there are two possible causes for the
crash: (a) there was a sort of a fight in the cockpit during the last
seconds or (b) the pilot feared to crash into a hotel near the beach
on the island and tried to turn left (away from the beach) in the last


Alexander Weber          cip583@cip.physik.uni-wuerzburg.de