Swamp Areas


Swamps are pretty dismal places to land airplanes. They are inhabited by nasty little insects, bugs, snakes, and assorted venomous reptiles; and besides there is usually somebody wandering around shouting “Chloe” . It’s hard to find airplanes that have gone down in swamps still harder to find people who were in them. A little care in flying over swamps will pay big dividends so will a little carelessness. In one case you get comfort in the other misery. 

Our biggest swamps are in Florida and Louisiana, but there are many swampy areas in other places which you can profitably avoid: along the eastern seaboard, in Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and eastern Arkansas. 

guy covering face from alligator

There is no safe way to fly over swamps at least over swamps of such size that the pilot must be, at any time, many miles from its edge. Forced landings can be made, but the real hazard is survival and rescue thereafter. By far the best practice is to skirt swamps and stay in close vicinity of a highway or railroad, even if this involves adding miles to the flight. 

This advice comes from experienced pilots for a swamp landing, if one should be necessary: 

In searching for a safe landing spot while flying most anywhere in Florida, Georgia, or other areas where cypress swamps and pine land exits, consider carefully the area between cypress and a pine. You will generally find any cypress swamp surrounded by an area where neither cypress nor pine trees grow. The area will vary in width from 30 to 100 or more, depending upon the slope of the ground and other features.

This area is grass-covered and usually very smooth as it is the overflow area for the swamp. When the water is high in the swamp, a few inches of water floods this area and discourage the growth of pine trees. Most of the year it is dry and firm so that cypress will not root in it. This is the best perhaps the only place for an emergency landing in swamp. 

Experienced pilots warn that the Florida Everglades, the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia, and the coastal swamps along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and the swamp area just north and east of Mobile are to be avoided. They point out that ocean coastlines make for easy piloting, but they advise keeping close to highways along the coastline near Charleston, Savannah, and Brunswick. Down the east coast of Florida, navigating is absurdly simple, but the novice pilots, when flying any other direction from Jacksonville except along the coast, should follow closely a highway or railroads and thus avoid the worst swamp area.

Experienced pilots suggest that any pilots who becomes lost in Florida should fly due east or west; by so doing he will arrived at the coastline within an hour, even in a slow airplane.

From Miami, there are only three routes that should be taken by the novice: straight north along the shoreline; straight west following the Tamiami Trail to Ft. Myers, Tampa, and St. Petersburg; and southwest to Homestead and Matecumbe Key; thence west-southwest to Key West, following the Key West highway.

From Ft. Myers, St Petersburg, Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando, and central Florida towns, no mountains will be encountered in any directions, but sizable swamp areas abound. The novice will be wise to find a highway or railroad leading in the desired direction and to stay close to it.

Nobody in the experienced pilot category loves swamps. They are not even pretty or interesting to fly over, it seems. Timbered and swamp areas are encountered in Louisiana and Arkansas. Novices should fly the established airways where intermediate fields are available or to follow very closely the main highways. 

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