Bush Pilots & Depth Perception

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I lived in Kenora, Ontario, Canada for ten years and made many trips around the area with Bush Pilots and float planes. Landings and take-offs can be exciting. Lifting off from a small lake and clearing the trees at the other end of the lake can get the blood flowing.

One year, back in the 1960’s, a young pilot transported a Moose Hunting party into a northern lake. After a successful hunt he returned to pick up the party and their moose. The first two plane loads deposited the hunters at their main dock cabin. Then he went back for the butchered moose.

The entire hunting party watched the float plane circle the lake and come in for another landing.  It was a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky and without the slightest breeze.  Not a leaf was blowing and the water was a smooth as a mirror.

As the plane descended to the surface of the water it failed to pull out and flew right into the lake and crashed. The pilot was killed and the plane was destroyed.

The accident was caused by the lack of depth perception, caused by the smooth glass surface. The pilot had no reference as to how high he was off the surface of the water.  From what he saw he believe he was much higher up from the  surface of the lake and failed to level off and allow the floats to touch first.

The answer to the problem was simple.  An expericed pilot appreciates the danger and simply flies over the spot on the lake where he plans to touch down and drops a life jacket onto that spot.

When he circles back he is able to judge his height off the water surface by watching the life jacket floating in the water.  Being familure with the size of the jacket gives him a proper gauge as to how high he is off the surface of  the lake.

It does take more time to make the landing, by having to circle and extra time, but it is a small price to pay when lives are concerned.