New Jersey Flight Instructor Flies To The Aid Of Foundering Boaters


On Aug. 19, quick thinking by a flight instructor working for Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in New Jersey might have saved the lives of two sailors off the Jersey Shore. The Trentonian newspaper reported last week that Ryan Sarria was conducting a final course progress check with college student pilot Owen Cunningham. The two were on a cross-country flight from Trenton-Mercer County Airport (KTTN) to Wildwood/Cape May County Airport (KWWD) when Sarria spied what looked like trouble.

In a press release from MCCC, Sarria said, “Flying north off of Sea Isle I was looking out the right side of the aircraft and spotted an overturned sailboat. That’s when I took control of the aircraft and we circled back to get a better look.” Sarria saw a pair of day sailors struggling with an overturned catamaran and was able to see that the wind and tide were carrying the capsized boat farther out to sea. They were trying to attract the attention of other boaters, but no one on the surface could see they were in trouble.

Sarria said, “We decided to radio Atlantic City approach controllers and ask if they had a frequency for us to talk to the Coast Guard. As we were passing the location off, a state police helicopter asked our position and started their way towards us.”

Ultimately, lifeguards from the beach were able to coordinate with the New Jersey State Police helicopter and reach the sailboat with wave runners. They were able to help the sailors right the ship and carry on their voyage. In all, the pilots had circled the boat for some 35 minutes, ensuring that help was on the way, before continuing on their planned flight.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Live right by there – and happy to see GA give a great assist and that all turned out well. Being a former member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary aviation unit and the C.A.P. [ since 1965 ] and the retired Police Chief and Fire Rescue service as well as an employee of the County College in that area, makes me glad it all came together to a good safe ending.