Man Ditches Small Plane in Ocean After Fuel Shortage (VIDEO)

plane ditchWhen I run out of gas, I pull over and wait for a patient family member to meet me on the side of the highway with a few extra gallons in a jug. When a pilot runs out of gas, it's obviously a whole 'nother story. A 65-year-old man was flying from California to Hawaii when he noticed he was running low on fuel. Gulp. He contacted the federal aviation authorities and informed them that he was 500 miles from the Big Island and estimated that he'd run out of fuel around 100 miles short of his destination. Double gulp.

The Coast Guard took action and deployed two aircraft, one military transport plane and one helicopter, to help guide the distressed pilot to a safe landing, but 13 miles from land, the small plane completely ran out of gas. Triple gulp.

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This is the stuff thriller movies and personal nightmares are made of. The plane was going down, and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it. With the help of the Coast Gaurd, the pilot guided his six-seat, twin-engine aircraft into the choppy Pacific Ocean and when his plane hit the water, he calmy climbed out the cockpit window and onto the wing. (Wow!) Rescue workers then plucked him from the ocean and transported him to a hospital in Hilo, Hawaii. And get this: The pilot was coherent and had no significant injuries.

How incredible is that? I can't tell if the pilot was incredibly unlucky since he clearly flubbed his miles-per-gallon pre-flight math, or on the other hand, if he was incredibly lucky considering how things turned out. Probably a little of both.

His journey started in Monterey and ended in the ocean -- I gotta guess that's not what he planned. This story makes me feel a combination of fear and relief. It's frightening that there's a pilot out there who can't fill up the tank before a long trip (or check head winds? maybe he encountered stronger gusts then he anticipated?), yet it's comforting to know that if things do go horribly wrong, the worst that can sometimes happen is that you sink your plane and you're airlifted pain-free to a hospital for a check-up.

It's a great story, as is any that involves a may-day call and on-the-ball rescue workers, and I'm so glad the pilot is OK. So proud of the Coast Guard for their diligent response and their aid -- I'm sure the pilot feels the same way.

Are you afraid of flying?

Watch the dramatic rescue for yourself:

Photo via cnn.com

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