Hey, I am a pilot and I have to tell you that ditching a place (landing in the water) is a seriously difficult and dangerous maneuver. When learning to fly, we were all cautioned against ditching in water if there were any other viable places to make a forced landing, even going down in a forest is considered more survivable that ditching in the water.
Remember, the engines on this plane are mounted in nacelles under each wing and would have been the first part of the aircraft to contact the water. Generally, when ditching, the landing gear is not extended. This is not done to slow flooding but rather to increase, slightly, the extremely low odds that the at least a few of the passengers might survive the ditching.
Let me try to sum it up in an easy way. As a plane approaches the ground (surface in this case) when it gets to a height equivalent to about 1 wing length, the air under the wing starts to compress, this is called “ground effect”. When landing in water there are, obviously, waves. When a wave is under one wing and not the other, ground effect will cause that wing to rise, and the other wing to fall, banking the airplane. In the case of a jet like this where the engine nacelles are under the wing, that usually forces one engine into the water. The water acts as an immediate brake cause the plane to spin on that wing, rotate and break up spewing fuel and, well, people. Not good.
Even when this does not happen, and the to engine nacelles hit the water essentially simultaneously, a very difficult thing to accomplish, the will, again, act as sudden brakes and usually forcing the plane’s nose down and slamming it violently into the water. Also not good.
If the pilot tries to keep the nose up and in doing so the tail hits the water first, he will immediately lose roll control. The tail will probably break apart, and, as the plane rolls over, first one wing, then the fuselage will break up.
None of these appear to have happened.
In this case, and I am speculating here, the pilot appeared to be ready for contact with the water and kept the nose up, only enough so it was the back of the engine nacelles, not the air intake in the front, that must have contacted the water first. And they must have contacted the water essentially simultaneously. That, I will tell, is exceptional piloting ability. If I am not mistakes, this may be one of the only times, in the history of jet airliners, that a plane successfully ditched without breaking up. Oh yeah, God was there alright.
Now, after the plan is in the water and stopped, the cabin crew, AKA the stewardesses, kept their heads and clearly avoided a panic. They kept people out of the water, which would have killed them in minutes from hypothermia and got them into rafts and on the wings (water was just barely above freezing at 32.5 degrees F, 0.3 C, air temperatures were in the 20s).
This whole crew, pilots AND flight attendants deserve praise and recognition. Remember this the next time you fly and are tempted to annoy a flight attendant. That lady or man may save your life as they did for the people here.
Thank God all these people are safe. I will fly with this flight crew anytime.
To the pilots of that airplane, first :tiphat:. Next, I am sure that (except for the Baptists, Mormons and JWs) the passengers and their families will be standing in line to buy you…