I started this before Captain Sullenberger landed in the Hudson and I think I gave up on the whole landed/crashed/ditched after that, so didn't post the entry, but hey, it's still a blog entry, right?
Someone sent me a link to this story about a Mooney that had an engine failure and ended up in the sea. First off, people in BC, you have to stop driving airplanes into rocks, glaciers and oceans. If you want to gawk at the sight some more, there's a video here; it's just eight minutes of helicopter footage circling the submerged aircraft and the rescue hovercraft. Nothing happens in the video except that a boat circles the site a couple of times. The pilot has lnog since been picked up by a passing twin otter. (And I can't get it to work anymore. Perhaps it's been removed).
The text story describes it as a "crash landed." Do you think that was a crash landing? I've had enough of the term crash landed used to describe every airplane accident that involves an airplane coming to rest on the surface of the planet. The only terms related to wrecking airplanes that are legally defined in Canada are accident and incident. The former involves serious injury or death resulting from an aircraft, major damage, or the aircraft being missing altogether. The latter applies only to large aircraft and includes abnormal conditions like shutting down an engine, or the incapacitation of a required crew member. In media terms, accidents (and many things that aren't accidents) are "crashes" and incidents are "scares." Although I suppose if a large airplane went off the runway and ripped off a wingtip fairing, some stories would call that incident a crash.
Everything bad that happens to an airplane isn't a crash. There has to be an actual crash no? To me, a crash occurs when there is either a loss of control of the aircraft, or a high-speed collision with something, and something more significant than lights and fairings gets bent or smashed.
So a gear up, whether through forgetfulness or mechanical problems, assuming the aircraft doesn't skid off the runway or flip over, is not what I'd call a crash. Catching a wingtip and ripping off a winglet is not a crash. I think a crash landing is an attempt to land, in an irregular situation, that involves loss of control before touchdown and results in a seriously damaged airplane.
If the airplane or pilot or landing area is seriously compromised, but an attempt is made to land, a possible result is a crash landing. Sioux City was definitely a crash landing. The airplane landed, and it crashed. Easy. The pilot points the airplane towards something with the intention of landing and puts the airplane on the ground, but the result is such that the airplane cannot be used again promptly. Yeah, that was a crash landing.
A deliberate landing of a wheel or ski plane in water is usually called a ditching. (Captain Haynes referred to the possibility of attempting to land the DC-10 off-airport "ditching" too, but I myself wouldn't use the term that way). Landing gear, engines, fairings, even wings and tail may be torn off, but if the cabin is sufficiently intact that people get out, I'd call it a successful ditching. In an unsuccessful ditching the airplane may cartwheel, or impact the water at a high speed or angle, causing it to break up. The result of an attempted ditching may be indistinguishable from a crash into water, but that Mooney was successfully, and I would judge skillfully ditched. As a pilot of a single engine airplane, he probably made sure he was within gliding distance of land, but it doesn't take a pilot to see that the land in the area was inhospitable. So he dithed close enough to shore that even badly injured he'd be able to swim to it.
Was this a crash in your opinion? Would you say you "crashed" your car if you lost control and drove it into the water where it sank? Do you used "ditch" to describe non-water off-airport landings?
A better CBC video clip had clearer information on the accident and used the phrase "gone down" instead of crash.