Glassy Water Takeoff and Landing

very smooth lake surface water with reflections

It looks pretty, but it hurts…

Glass water is such a concern to pilots because of the inability you have to properly judge your height above the surface.  You run the risk of flying right into the water, never knowing it was coming.  The most common accidents associated with glassy water are:

  • Flaring high and falling to the water
  • Not flaring and landing hard
  • Taking off, and then not maintaining a positive climb and flying right back into the water
  • Not breaking the surface tension of the water soon enough, resulting in a longer takeoff run and impacting terrain on climb out

In the next two topics, we will do our best with video (but the real thing is better) to show you how difficult it is to judge your height above the water.  We’ll also walk you through the proper procedure for landing and taking off of glassy water.

A few quick tips that apply to both glassy water takeoffs and landings:

  • Takeoff and Land near the shoreline or visual references (i.e. lily pads)
  • Plan to use MUCH more water on takeoff and landing
  • Consider waiting for some wind
  • Consider unloading some weight from the aircraft
  • Do use your VSI (vertical speed indicator)
  • Do fly stable approaches and climbs away from the lake
  • Do leave yourself plenty of room for errors, plan especially for a very long landing approach and possible go around, on takeoff, expect to use much more distance to break free of the water (leave yourself lots of room!)