Pilot praised for handling of plane that crashed in Pacific

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — The owner of one of two small planes that crashed-landed in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii over the weekend is crediting a novice pilot with staying calm and ensuring the survival of all four people onboard, including a baby.

The pilot of the single-engine Cessna flying from Kauai to Oahu declared an emergency Sunday evening, saying the aircraft was running out of fuel, according to the Coast Guard.

The plane crash-landed about 11 miles west of Oahu.

The Coast Guard rescued the pilot and three passengers and transported them to medical treatment. Their conditions were not immediately available.

Barbers Point Flight School owner Reggie Perry said the pilot had only recently completed flight training.

His was not immediately released, but Perry said the pilot was a 36-year-old Oahu man serving on active duty in the Army, The Garden Island reported. That experience might have helped him "keep it all together" during the incident, Perry said.

"A pilot with low flight time and who is not able to draw on experience was still able to do what he did to take care of himself and to take care of his passengers," Perry said.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that only two people onboard the Cessna had life vests, and the baby did not have a vest.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash-landing, along with another one Sunday night about 250 miles off Maui. Both were caused by fuel shortages, and both planes sank.

The other incident involved a single-engine Cirrus SR22 with just the pilot on board.

That plane briefly nose-dived but was equipped with a giant parachute, which allowed the aircraft to level out and drift down to the water.

The pilot, who was identified by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as Lue Morton of Seattle, put down the plane near a cruise ship. Morton was then pulled aboard the vessel in a life raft amid giant waves.

The pilot was traveling from Tracy, California, to Maui in the plane, which has a range of about 1,200 miles. That's only half the distance to Maui, but the aircraft was equipped with an auxiliary fuel system, according to the NTSB, which is investigating.

Morton was en route to Australia to deliver the plane to an owner, according to Duluth, Minnesota-based Cirrus Aircraft, the manufacturer.