Ocean, Bay, and Lake Shores


There’s no prettier flying than along the shore of a rolling ocean or a beautiful lake. Such flying, however, has some hazards the experienced pilots say. Certainly it should be done only under ideal conditions. 

An off-shore wind along with poor visibility can, in no time, places the unsuspecting pilot in a precarious position where he might be unable to make his way back to the shore, if flying a landplane, or be unable to reach a sheltered spot for a landing, if flying a seaplane. Extra care should be exercised in crossing Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, or Long Island Sound when visibility is poor. In poor visibility, the unskilled pilot can easily become confused for lack of a horizon. Better not cross unless the other side is clearly visible and then, if possible is better to cross so as the intercept the paths of boats. It’s better to land near a boat than all by yourself. 

Almost any of the Great Lakes might also have been included in these warnings. There’s an awful lot of water, even in little Lake Huron, to fly across in a landplane. Because some of these lakes are comparatively shallow, They produce high waves under windy conditions.

Those who know, firmly advise against crossing any of the Great Lakes in a single-engine airplane, The risk is all out of proportion to the reward. The problem is not so much one of landing in rough water as it is one of staying alive in cold water and being picked up after the landing. Even with life preservers, the water is usually too cold for any prolonged exposure. With the exception of railroad car ferries and a few tankers, shipping traffic on the lakes is at a standstill from about November to April. The upper lakes are desolate at any season. Getting picked up after an emergency landing might be a matter of considerable lick, and will almost always be a race between exposure and rescuer. What is said about fog in the next paragraph also applies to the Great Lakes. 

Watch for fog along the ocean coasts. It will  sometimes lie for hours in a  straight line just offshore

confused pilot looks behind him in airplane

And then, within a few minutes, move inland covering a wide area. It can easily and quickly cover that seashore airport where you had planned to land. In questionable weather, always have an alternate destination airport in mind. Fog around Long Island is doubly dangerous because of the large bodies of water on each side, and it takes on a short time, in extreme cases, for fog to blanket the whole island. 

Experienced pilots in the western states recommend that you plan your arrival on the west coast shortly after noon if possible and you should be able to make it VFR most of the time. Coastal fog usually burns off by ten o’clock and does not move in again until late afternoon. However, check the remark section of the sequence report carefully. If it shows for bank or stratus west, the field could “ sock in” quickly. You must then have an alternate further inland out of the fog. 

Experienced pilots point out that when making an emergency landing over water with landplanes; you should land parallel and close to the shore line when possible- never towards or away from the shore line. 

However, unless absolutely necessary, never let yourself get to an altitude or position where such a landing would have to be made. Play it safe. Take the long way around. There is much truth in the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. 

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