Three Survive Tacoma Midair

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All three occupants of two aircraft that brushed each other over Commencement Bay, off Tacoma, Wash., on Tuesday walked —and swam— away from the mishap. Cessna 182 pilot Bud Williams said he felt a thud that sent his charts and paperwork flying all over the cabin and looked out to see another aircraft in a circling descent to the ocean below. Williams said he quickly determined his aircraft was controllable. "I figured my plane was in flyable condition. Everything checked out," Williams, 63, told the Seattle Times. He followed the other aircraft, identified as a Citabria, and watched it ditch under control. He called 121.5 to give the coordinates of the ditching and then headed to a nearby airfield where he made an uneventful landing. His aircraft suffered damage to the right wheel pant, fuselage and a wingtip. Meanwhile the two unidentified occupants of the other aircraft, a son taking his mother for lunch at nearby Gig Harbor, clung briefly to the sinking Cessna before it sank in 200 feet of water. A family out for a cruise in their 46-foot boat saw the accident from three miles away and headed for the ditched airplane. "I put my throttles down as far as we could go and headed toward it. It probably took us 10 minutes to get there," boat owner John Farrell told the Times. "When we got there, the pilot was treading water with his mother in his arms." The boat’s passengers stripped the wet clothes off the pair and wrapped them in blankets. They were checked in to the hospital and released. Other pilots interviewed by the Times said Tuesday was unusually busy for small aircraft traffic because weather had improved from the previous few days. Lingering low clouds forced pilots to fly at low altitude, congesting the airspace further.