Floatplane To The Rescue

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Mark Wisdorf was kite surfing at Turnagain Arm, Alaska, when things turned bad, leaving him and his kite floating in the water for nearly an hour and a half before his friend, a seaplane pilot, attempted a somewhat unconventional rescue. The waters of Turnagain Arm meet Cook Inlet in swirling currents that include riptide-induced waves and a daily bore tide (seawater that moves to a shallow narrowing inlet from a broad bay) that can cause waves up to about 10 feet tall traveling at up to 15 miles per hour, according to Alaska.org. Wisdorf was stranded in that mess out of reach of land-based first responders who soon called for a helicopter. But Wisdorf had a friend, a fellow kiteboarder and pilot named Jim Chaplin, who received a call that Wisdorf was in trouble. Chaplin took to the air in his floatplane with a helper aboard and arrived first on the scene. "I just treated it like a river landing and I landed into the current and touched down right near him," Chaplin told the Associated Press. But after a successful landing, the current took Wisdorf right past the plane.

Now down in the water and swirling currents, Chaplin maneuvered his aircraft through the choppy waves while his passenger managed a rescue. The next problem was the takeoff. "My concerns were the strong currents and being pushed into the bigger rip waves. We were able to stay out of those and have a safe takeoff," Chaplin said. The trio took off and departed into the horizon, leaving land-based responders wondering who had just pulled off the rescue. They found out later, and Wisdorf showed some of his appreciation by helping Chaplin wash the plane.