An as-yet-unidentified Florida pilot survived not only a nighttime crash landing in the Everglades but also about eight hours’ sitting on the wing of his mostly submerged Cessna 172 in dangerous, alligator-infested waters. Dramatic NBC News video recorded the rescue by the crew of a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue helicopter. According to FlightAware, the Cessna departed from FL31, a private STOL grass strip outside Homestead, Florida, at 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 31) and flew to Okeechobee Airport (KOBE).
About a half-hour after landing, it departed at 3:01 a.m. for the accident flight on a course that suggests a return flight to the Homestead area. According to FlightAware, the Cessna spiraled from an altitude of 2,000 feet to its landing spot. Though the weather at the time is unknown, a nearly full moon could have provided enough light to enable the pilot to pick his spot for landing. The cause of the crash landing is under investigation.
The aircraft was reportedly operated by a flight school based at Miami-Homestead General Aviation Airport (X51) and FlightAware records show multiple local flights in the preceding days, including two local flights on Monday morning and afternoon. But there is no record of a flight from X51 to FL31, a private field known as MJD with a 1,350-foot turf runway a few miles north of X51. AirNav lists the airport’s owner and manager with the initials MJD. He did not immediately return a call from AVweb.
[Update: The owner of the private, unlighted STOL airport contacted AVweb and confirmed that the Cessna did NOT depart from his runway. He said the confusion is likely due to its location 3.5 miles due north of X51. ADS-B tracking often does not start until an aircraft has climbed high enough, and he said he regularly sees inaccurate flight-tracking information involving his airport.]
Though the airplane crash-landed at approximately 4 a.m., authorities were not notified until around 10:30 by the flight school. After locating the downed Skyhawk, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue helicopter lowered a rescuer to the top of the Cessna. The pilot was harnessed to the rescuer and winched up to the helicopter. He was transported to a hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries to his left leg.
Sheriff’s office fire chief Michael Kane told CBS News Miami: “To be able to seemingly walk away with just a leg injury after putting an aircraft down in the Everglades with the thick brush is an amazing feat in itself, and we’re very grateful that he’s OK.”