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Distress and Urgency Procedures

will touchdown with less chance of planing off into
a second uncontrolled landing. Most experienced
seaplane pilots prefer to make contact with the water
in a semi

stalled attitude, cutting power as the tail

makes contact. This technique eliminates the chance
of misjudging altitude with a resultant heavy drop in
a fully stalled condition. Care must be taken not to
drop the aircraft from too high altitude or to balloon
due to excessive speed. The altitude above water
depends on the aircraft. Over glassy smooth water, or
at night without sufficient light, it is very easy, for
even the most experienced pilots to misjudge altitude
by 50 feet or more. Under such conditions, carry
enough power to maintain nine to twelve degrees
nose up attitude, and 10 to 20 percent over stalling
speed until contact is made with the water. The proper
use of power on the approach is of great importance.
If power is available on one side only, a little power
should be used to flatten the approach; however, the
engine should not be used to such an extent that the
aircraft cannot be turned against the good engines
right down to the stall with a margin of rudder
movement available. When near the stall, sudden
application of excessive unbalanced power may
result in loss of directional control. If power is
available on one side only, a slightly higher than
normal glide approach speed should be used. This
will ensure good control and some margin of speed
after leveling off without excessive use of power. The
use of power in ditching is so important that when it
is certain that the coast cannot be reached, the pilot
should, if possible, ditch before fuel is exhausted. The
use of power in a night or instrument ditching is far
more essential than under daylight contact


If no power is available, a greater than normal

approach speed should be used down to the flare


This speed margin will allow the glide to be broken
early and more gradually, thereby giving the pilot
time and distance to feel for the surface 


the possibility of stalling high or flying into the water.
When landing parallel to a swell system, little
difference is noted between landing on top of a crest
or in the trough. If the wings of aircraft are trimmed
to the surface of the sea rather than the horizon, there
is little need to worry about a wing hitting a swell
crest. The actual slope of a swell is very gradual. If
forced to land into a swell, touchdown should be

made just after passage of the crest. If contact is made
on the face of the swell, the aircraft may be swamped
or thrown violently into the air, dropping heavily into
the next swell. If control surfaces remain intact, the
pilot should attempt to maintain the proper nose
above the horizon attitude by rapid and positive use
of the controls.

f. After Touchdown.

In most cases drift, caused

by crosswind can be ignored; the forces acting on the
aircraft after touchdown are of such magnitude that
drift will be only a secondary consideration. If the
aircraft is under good control, the “crab” may be
kicked out with rudder just prior to touchdown. This
is more important with high wing aircraft, for they are
laterally unstable on the water in a crosswind and may
roll to the side in ditching.


This information has been extracted from Appendix H of the “National
Search and Rescue Manual.”



4. Special Emergency (Air Piracy)


A special emergency is a condition of air piracy,

or other hostile act by a person(s) aboard an aircraft,
which threatens the safety of the aircraft or its


The pilot of an aircraft reporting a special

emergency condition should:


If circumstances permit, apply 





telephony procedures. Include the

details of the special emergency.


AIM, Paragraph 6


1 , Distress and Urgency Communications


If circumstances do not permit the use of





 procedures, transmit:


On the air/ground frequency in use at the



As many as possible of the following

elements spoken distinctly and in the following order:


Name of the station addressed (time and

circumstances permitting).


The identification of the aircraft and

present position.


The nature of the special emergency

condition and pilot intentions (circumstances