“Exceptional skills in challenging weather is a necessity. “
Exceptional pilots are those who avoid having to use their exceptional skills. Nevertheless, we may end up in difficult situations despite the best intentions. It is a fact majority of accidents and serious incidents in aviation occur during landing and take-off.
According to data published by Canadian CA for 2016, it was found the greatest numbers of airplane accidents were associated with landing (65%) and take-off (27%) phases of flight, followed by en route (11%) and approach (10%) phases.
Compared to a wheel operation, seaplane operation presents some unique additional challenges. The biggest factor being the landing and take-off areas used.
Unlike a paved runway, the water surface is dynamic. Swells, waves, ocean currents, glares, floating debris, intruders, and varying layouts, present additional risks, and they don't stay the same. When combined with adverse weather conditions and less automation, the risks are heightened.
A Seaplane pilot will encounter an increased number of situations where a go-around is needed compared to a wheel operation. So the awareness of when to initiate a go-around and the skills to effectively execute one has to be instilled and developed.
The stabilized approach criteria in seaplane manuals appeared quite recently owing to several accidents during landing across the whole industry in the Maldives.
The developing safety management system within seaplane operators are trying to identify and mitigate the unique risks. But whether they have found the root cause(s) is still a question when looked at the data.
Article by former Maldivian Deputy Chief and Type Rating Instructor Captain Sim Jaabir.