Celebratory Skies: Understanding the Tradition of Water Cannon Salutes at Airports

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Deciphering the Aviation Tradition: The Water Canon Salute

Edward de Kruijf, an esteemed aviation connoisseur from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, sheds light on the distinguished airport custom known as the ‘water canon salute’ in a recent in-house video.

Unraveling the Water Canon Salute: An Age-old Tradition

Essentially, this involves fire trucks spraying plumes of water over an aeronautical vehicle to create a beautiful arc through which it passes. This ceremonial gesture is traditionally exercised to commemorate remarkable events in aviation, such as the launching of a spanking new aircraft or the homecoming of Olympic athletes.

In preparation for its execution, a great deal of planning and coordination is necessitated. The precise positioning of fire trucks and communication with Air Traffic Control are all part of this preparation. Factors including the direction of the wind are considered to ensure the ceremony goes smoothly.

Tracing Back its Maritime Roots

Interestingly, the legacy of the water salute tracks back to the maritime field rather than aviation. During yesteryears, fireboats would carry out the same act to celebrate a vessel’s inaugural voyage by creating arcs of water. This festivity has since been adopted by the aviation industry as a celebratory tradition, adding a special touch to significant occasions.

A Ceremonial Gesture with Priority to Safety

While the water salute is essentially a celebration, the emphasis on safety is never undermined. An adequate provision of water is reserved for the course of this ceremony with enough saved to handle an actual fire emergency if required.

A Tradition not Without its Share of Mishaps

However, like any major events, the water canon salute has also been privy to a few incidents. An instance occurred back in 2018 in Saudi Arabia when a performing ceremony went awry. This resulted from a technical malfunction in one of the hoses, leading to minor injuries inflicted on a passenger. Such unfortunate events indeed serve as a reminder that while traditions are important, safety should always come first.


The practice of the water canon salute provides an intriguing look into the traditions and celebrations of the aviation industry. Despite occasional glitches, it remains an enduring symbol of milestone moments, coupled with the underlying emphasis on safety. Our sources will continue to monitor such interesting aspects and provide you with the very best in aviation coverage.


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