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Home > Fear of Flying > Do all planes nose dive and break up on hitting water?
Do all planes nose dive and break up on hitting water?
Flying - Fear of Flying
Monday, 06 August 2007 17:29

Hi Capt Lim,

I came across your website this evening and I just want to say thank you for putting so much time into answering all the questions. Being a nervous flyer, knowing the facts really does help. I do have two questions that I*m not sure if you*ve answered (I did my best to view all the questions as it must be tedious for you to repeat yourself). My questions are:

Referring to *ditching* in water, you say it is possible for the plane to float and for the passengers to survive, but why do so many planes break up on hitting the water? I haven*t heard of a plane staying intact and this really scares me as I envision water gushing in and drowning!

Also you say that planes are made to glide, but can they nose dive? I*ve watched many air disaster programs where the planes have nose-dived from great heights and now I*m petrified of being at 35000 ft and nose-diving to the ground! My friend reassured me it*s very difficult for a plane to nose dive as they are designed, as you said, to glide and that on some planes apparently the autopilot system kicks in and takes over? I have no idea if this is true and I*d really like to know if and why a plane would nose dive at great speed.

If you could answer these two questions for me Id really appreciate it!

Thank you,

Katie

Hi Katie,


Yes, there are almost 1000 FAQ in my archive and most questions asked today have been answered before!

I mentioned that it is possible for planes to ditch safely if it were properly controlled. See the Boeing 737 sitting on a river after a ditching
here. Obviously, if the impact with water was at a high speed, say 500 mph instead of 160 mph, the plane is likely to disintegrate!

Similarly, if a plane were not under control (by the pilot) when the engines failed, it would nose dive. (Don't be under the misconception that planes are not maneuverable when all the engines are dead! ? as the
above accident can testify) Of course, the plane must also have sufficient speed or else it would "stall" and drop out of the sky!

No, ?the autopilot system does not kick in and takes over? during the dive following an engine failure but the pilot can engage it if the electrical system were still available (through the APU or auxiliary power unit ? a kind of a independent standby electrical generator)

Yes, I love watching "Air Crash Investigation", "Air Disaster" and similar documentaries in the TV Channels and they certainly do scare many fearful flyers. If you listened carefully to the commentaries, most of those that crashed during impact had some form of control problems. However, I personally do not recommend fearful flyers to watch such movies.

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