Pilot found standing on wing of crashed plane in Savannah River

SAVANNAH, Ga. — When U.S. Coast Guard rescuers arrived at the site of a plane crash in the Savannah River here Saturday, they found the student pilot standing on the fender.

Officials suspect the sole driver of the Piper PA28 the plane began to break down at around 10:45 a.m. on February 26, causing the unnamed pilot to radio, “Mayday, mayday.” An air traffic controller Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport can be heard asking the man if he had the city in sight, and he replied, “Yeah. I will not arrive there.

“And he put it in the water,” said US Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Air Station Savannah pilot Cameron Welicka MH-65D Dolphin rrescue helicopter that rushed to the wreckage from the river.

U.S. Coast Guard rescuers assisted the student pilot of a downed Piper PA28 aircraft in the Savannah River at Fec. 26, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Addressing journalists from Hunter Army Airfield, Welicka added that the student pilot managed to save his backpack, mobile phone and car keys before the river submerged the plane.

“I don’t know how his brain could put it all together so quickly. But he did,” Welicka said.

Welicka said he and his crew were on a practice flight over a swamp when their emergency detection system received a distress call.

“Most of the time they turned out to be false alarms, but it’s a good training opportunity to take those signals and try to find them, which we have the ability to do,” Welicka said, adding that pilots often test their distress signals. top of the hour.

Savanna River
U.S. Coast Guard rescuers assisted the student pilot of a downed Piper PA28 aircraft in the Savannah River at Fec. 26, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Welicka said he, co-pilot Lt. David Sullivan and Jordan Spurlock, Aircraft Maintenance Engineer 2nd Class, “set the whole system up” and veered off to Savannah International Airport.

Within a minute, chatter was circulating on the radio, asking if they had a lifeguard on board.

“It kind of hinted to us that something was going on, maybe a little more than a standard distress beacon,” Welicka said.

Then they learned that the downed plane was in the Savannah River near the Rear River Bridge that connects Georgia to South Carolina. Follow the advice of a controller inside Savannah Towerthe Dolphin crew spotted it north of town.

The student pilot was standing on the wing. He had just called his instructor to report that he had crashed into the river.

From 10 floors, the crew of the Dolphin saw the downed pilot swimming about 60 meters to shore. They were also squinting to see if any other survivors needed saving.

Then the crew lowered an escape pod to the student pilot on shore and they winched him to the helicopter.

“He seemed to be in good spirits,” said Welicka, who estimated the whole operation, from “mayday” to rescue, took no more than 10 minutes.

“It was the happiest result it could have been,” said co-driver Sullivan. Coffee or Die Magazine.

Savanna River
US Coast Guard Air Station Savannah crew who rescued a student pilot, in shorts here, from the Savannah River on February 26, 2022. Photo by US Coast Guard.

Returned to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airportthe student met his Sheltair Aviation Services instructor, who was very happy that the pilot had returned safe and sound.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the causes of the crash and crews are working to remove the plane from the Savannah River.

“I don’t think any rider is really envious of the choice they had of water or swamp because you don’t really know what’s in the tall grass,” Welicka said. coffee or die. “And when you see water, you think, ‘Okay, well, that’s clear and smooth and flat.’ But this comes with its own dangers, because if you land the wrong way, this plane is going to flip over.

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