Two Survive Pacific Ditching

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Two Australians are relaxing in Hawaii after they were rescued uninjured from a Piper Seminole they ditched in the Pacific last Thursday, 535 miles northeast of Hilo, Hawaii. Pilot Lyn Gray told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin they were about 1,000 miles from Santa Barbara, Calif., when she noticed one engine "was using far more fuel than it should." (An airline pilot who says he monitored the radio exchanges while on his way from LAX to Honolulu suggested in an e-mail to AVweb what he heard implied to him there was a problem with the ferry fuel system and one engine was shut down to conserve fuel.) Gray told the newspaper she and co-pilot Kristian Kauter shut the offending engine down but there wasn't enough fuel remaining to get to Hilo, their first fuel stop on the ferry flight to Sydney. Gray's aircraft was accompanied by another Seminole flown by her boss, Ray Clamback. Clamback, who's survived two ocean ditchings in the same area in the last seven years, radioed advice to Gray as he circled over the ditching site, before he continued to a safe landing in Hilo. Gray's Seminole was met by a Coast Guard C-130, which guided her toward the Virginius, a Maltese container ship on its way to China. The Guard Herc laid down a row of flares beside the ship to help the Seminole pilot judge wind. Gray and Kauter surrounded themselves with pillows and luggage to cushion the impact before setting the twin on the ocean. Within 15 minutes, the freighter crew had plucked the pilots from the sea. The two were checked by a nurse on the ship and found none the worse for wear. They stayed on the ship for almost two days before the captain obligingly agreed to rendezvous with a Coast Guard helicopter in international waters 12 miles off Honolulu so the pilots could decide for themselves if they wanted to go to China some other time, or at all. "Good Samaritan vessels can decide to do whatever they want with passengers they pick up," Coast Guard Petty Officer Brooksann Epiceno said. "So those people could ride all the way to China or the captain can say, 'Oh, I don't mind pulling over.' "