Pilot rescued after ocean crash

January 29, 2009 11:56:04 PM PST
A pilot crashed his single-engine plane in the pacific on Thursday during a sightseeing flight. U.S. Coast Guard crews just happened to be in the area, off Half Moon Bay at Pillar Point.

The pilot was treated and released at San Francisco General Hospital for minor injuries and is said to be okay.

U.S. Coast Guard video shows the pilot being wheeled into an ambulance. Authorities are not releasing his name, but they did say his single-engine plane lost engine power about seven miles west of Half Moon Bay.

Luckily, a Coast Guard C-130 just happened to be in the area for a training exercise and within minutes, the crew on that aircraft was able to drop a life raft. Then, two Air Force National Guard helicopters, which also happened to be in the area for training purposes, were able to hoist the pilot out of the water.

The pilot's plane was an Aeronca Champ, a single-engine high wing plane. The pilot rented it from Amelia Reid Aviation in San Jose.

"The fact that he managed to ditch the airplane without sudden impact damage and was able to climb out and get saved, indicates that he was reasonably calm in that situation and his training kicked in and he did what he had to do," said Zdravko Podolski, the owner of Amelia Reid Aviation.

"This gentleman is extremely lucky. He was severely hypothermic when he got here and that was after he had been out of the water for quite a while. So in my opinion he is very lucky to have those aircraft at the places that were there at that time," said Lt. Lane Steffenhagen, from the Coast Guard.

They said his body core temperature was at 92 degrees when he arrived at the Coast Guard station and that was after he had already been out of the water for a while. They put him in a survival suit to warm him up. Paramedics then took him to the hospital where he was treated for minor bumps and bruises.

It is still unknown why the pilot's plane lost power.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to follow up in hopes of trying to figure out what happened.