USAF Crew Guides Cargo Plane To Safety

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A U.S. Air Force crew's quick action may have prevented a South Pacific ditching by the crew of a Canadian cargo aircraft. The Kelowna Flightcraft Convair 580 was on a delivery flight from the company's base in Kelowna, British Columbia, to Palmerston North, New Zealand, when the crew, two Canadians and a Kiwi, realized they were far off course. On the last leg of the flight, from Pago Pago in American Samoa, the crewmembers realized something was out of sync when their navigation gear said they were over New Zealand but there was nothing but deep blue sea under them. That's when the Air Force came to the rescue. A U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifter crew overheard an emergency call sent out by the Convair crew. After some initial calculations, the Air Force crew plotted a course to the signal, where the military jet intercepted and led the now very worried Convair pilots to safety. The aircraft, due at Palmerston North at 3 p.m., landed safely at Gisborne two hours later with almost no fuel in the tanks. Transport Canada is now investigating the navigational snafu and speculation seems to center on a programming error before the plane left Canada.