A World War II-era TBM dive bomber ditched into the surf near Cocoa Beach, Florida, which was having an airshow on Sunday. The ditching was seemingly picture perfect. And as it turned out, no one was injured in the controlled crash into the surf. The pilot, who has not yet been named, seemed to be uninjured. While there were a number of swimmers and surfers in the water, no one got hit by the landing plane. One surfer was mere feet below the big single as it passed over, and they were covered by the plane’s shadow as it passed. From the early video, it’s not clear if anyone had been in the path, but subsequent photos and videos clearly showed that no one in the water was hit.
The incident has not been without controversy, however. At issue is the pilot’s choice of the forced landing site. From his perspective, he chose perfectly. But because the plane apparently had no power, if he had needed to avoid people in the water, it’s doubtful that he would have been able to. Not only that, but because forward visibility is so limited by the huge engine in the TBM, it’s unlikely that the pilot could even see where he was preparing to set the plane down. Should he have gone further out from shore? Well, in deeper water, the chances of the pilot surviving the ditching would have gone down, but so would the chances of his plane hitting anyone. As it was, a rescue boat arrived on scene within moments of the plane coming to rest in the water. It sank, but the water was shallow enough that some of the plane remained visible above the surf.
Early reports are that the plane lost engine power for an unknown reason. The FAA and NTSB are investigating.
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