124: Water Landing : An Interview with David Krautter

David Krautter grew up flying at a small airport near Huntsville, Alabama named Moontown. He received his private pilot’s license at 17.  He attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta and studied aerospace engineering.  David got into soaring in 2010 after he graduated, flying with the Mid Georgia Soaring Association. During that time he started competing and working on improving his cross country skills. David moved to California in 2018 and purchased a LS-6. He spent the last year completely refinishing and modifying the LS-6 with new winglets and other modifications. Two months after refinishing it he landed in Lake Tahoe during the Truckee Regional contest….David is here today to share his story and the events that led up to that crash. We greatly appreciate David’s willingness to share his story so we all can learn from it.  

Later on this episode Sergio The Soaring Master brings us another very informative segment about glider polars. All this and more now on episode 124
of Soaring the Sky!

7 comments on “124: Water Landing : An Interview with David Krautter
  1. Chris says:

    David,
    Thanks for sharing your story, that is not easy. I really like how you say this is part of “your story” – acceptance is important. Life and flying does not always move in a straight line to success – it has ups and downs or forward and backwards.
    Part of “my story” has made me a safer pilot.
    Chris

  2. Sara Stearns says:

    One incident does not always define a pilot. Repeated incidents do. There were many, many lessons from David’s story. His humility spoke for itself. If he wasn’t a “good stick prior to the ditching, he certainly is now. My thanks, many thanks, to him for sharing. One question – was he able to resurrect his LS6?

  3. Stephen P Watkins says:

    One thing that probably should have been mentioned – when ditching a plane with retractable gear, the gear should be left UP. Leaving the bottom surface smooth will allow the plane to skip and slide on the surface of the water, dissipating energy over a greater distance. I suspect that the extensive damage to the glider was caused by the gear being down. The gear hit the water and the resultant drag buried the aircrafts nose.

    I am not a glider pilot, but have extensive over water flying experience. Every plane that I have flown should be ditched with the gear UP

    1. Depends! If you are 100% sure that there is nothing beneath the surface, then yes. But in a shallow water I would leave the gear our, since there is not much between the rocks and your spine!

    2. Eric Greenwell says:

      Long ago, testing showed the typical streamlined glider fuselage will not “skip and slide” on the surface, but usually nose down into the water. If the water is shallow, the cockpit will impact the ground. Landing with the gear down reduces the tendency to dive, and also absorbs some of the impact from the ground if the water is shallow. This advice appears in almost every glider flight manual.

      I’m sure you meant well, but people without experience operating the aircraft in question should not offer specific safety advice. In this. Pilots, read your manual for the correct operation of your glider in emergencies!

  4. Thanks for sharing your story!
    I also have been in the situation whether I can make it over Brockway into Truckee or not. And I always turned to Carson, especially after my son was born.
    Being a cow I also must admit, that flying a DG400, I also had a 2nd option, but since I don’t trust engines cooled down to freezing temperatures I decided that trusting my life on that is not an option. So several times I found myself starting the engine in the traffic pattern of Carson.
    I know the pilot who landed on the golf course, but landing there is above my flying skills and WAY above my comfort level. So even after all the mistakes you did, the final decision was right, choosing the lake over the trees!

  5. JL Hamilton III says:

    I have to address the last comment by Mr. Watkins. Water landings with a retractable gear glider are done just the opposite of water landings with a retractable gear powered aircraft. The bottom of a glider (with the gear retracted) is a smooth, curved surface that, when coming in contact with water, acts like a wing that is upside down. The water flowing over the bottom of the glider’s curved fuselage creates a downward force that “sucks” the glider down into the water with considerable energy. This creates a strong deceleration and, as noted in Mr. Krautter’s case, forced the water up and over the top of the wings and did significant damage to the wings (and their attach points on the fuselage) when the initial contact made the gear retract. Leaving the gear down for a water landing disrupts the downward force. It still won’t make for a “smooth” landing, but it will dissipate the energy of deceleration over a longer period of time than the 2 seconds from 45 knots to zero knots that Mr. Krautter estimated in this case. I am a glider pilot…my 2 cents.

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