Back to Squawk list
  • 227

Horror at Eleven Thousand Feet?

Allow me to apologize for this article's ambivalent title, but first let me tell you the story of how I went from cruising on autopilot at 11,000 feet while eating a bag of M&Ms to treading water in the shark infested Gulf of Mexico all in a matter of 3 minutes. I am an ATP rated pilot and use my aircraft extensively for business and personal transportation. On 20 September 2012, I had planned on flying from my home in Houston, Texas to Sarasota, Florida for some meetings. When I lined…

Sort type: [Top] [Newest]

Ray Zimmermann 16
I think you can remove the question mark after the title of your article.
Chris Donawho 13
Fancy 406's aren't cheap and a refund is definitely in order. Glad it all worked out.
To be fair, I wonder if perhaps the unit did not have enough time to get a lock on the satellites. It only had about 3 minutes between activating it in the dive to the plane being completely submerged. Still, it is certainly frustrating to spend money on survival equipment which you hope to never have to use, and then find it does not work when you DO need it!
Marcus Pradel 4
It's frustrating that you're required to upgrade it just to find out that Search and Rescue aren't using it!
dbaker 3
The SAR folks will use it, but only if your device is working, which is believed to be the issue here.
Chris Donawho 5
I would at least try to get their take on it. If it didn't work as advertised, perhaps they could send you a replacement free of charge... Like you said, survival equipment that does not work when you need it is frustrating.
antonio alaniz 2
Agreed Chris, and at the very least, it is excellent information for their R&D.
Richard Dugger 1
I bet they soon as you retrieve and return the old one from 3000 feet of water.

I can only guess the impact wasn't enough to set it off ? or did he say he activated it?
I'll to re read that part.
daniel klein 8
Glad you are ok.
Thanks for sharing the story.
It was a nice read!
Kira Andreola 7
Wow! I'm so glad you guys made it out! Yeah terror is right. Thanks for sharing your story.
Here are some photos to accompany the article:
Er.A.K. Mittal 4
ThanX for the pics. Surprising that you guys had the kind of look inspite of all that!
MaxFlex01 7
Mr. Wright, I have very little to offer in the face of your stunning tale of airmanship and cool. Without a doubt, you deserve the highest of BZ's!!! I will add 3 stolid-gold Attaboys, because you, FLEW the PLANE as required (limits mean little if you come apart 1,500 ASL); and because you KEPT your COOL (as above, by neither establishing a 'normal' glide or diving so steep the wings became strakes, you avoided turning your aircraft into confetti or a lawn dart) you got the aircraft and your passenger to the water, used your time economically to harvest as much survival equipment as possible; and, finally, because YOU TOOK RESPONSIBILITY by keeping both yours and your passenger's minds focused and positive. In my 38 years of military and civilian aviation, I have seen a few wrecks and a few heroes. You, sir, by virtue of your actions before, during and after the emergency have proven yourself to be one of the latter as well! Congrats, Captain, well done!
Thank you for the kind words, sir. Thank you for your service as well!
michael Solon 5
Storys like this that end in survival are always a good read and good lessons learned
bbabis 4
Great job Theodore both surviving and telling the story. It is another example of you never know when it is going to happen. Be trained and be prepared is the moral.

As far as being located, that iPad makes a great signal mirror if its working or dead.
Rob Good 3
Great survival story
great flying skills
well done
Steve Kady 3
Good story. Why didn't the yacht see you? Where can we see the pix and video?
Ilona LaRue 3
I would like to go flying with you......
Don Loughran 3
Had a Janitrol in my Apache...scared me every time I "fired" it up; usually just flew with long-handles. Never could figure out why the engineers couldn't provide a muff heater off either engine and duct the air to the cabin (ala single-engine). Part of the AD was to put a Hobbs meter on the Janitrol...kinda like a "countdown" clock to a fire!!!!
Toby Sharp 3
Glad you guys made it out. Thanks for sharing....Send it to FLYING MAG
Terry Isom 3
Your PAX was lucky to have a cool-headed pilot! I like happy endings!
Very good read, thank you. Besides your Breitling Emergency, what else do you keep in the plane?
I have always carried an emergency 'ditch' bag, containing water, MREs, first aid kit, sunblock, etc. For overwater flights, I have a PFD for every passenger. Back in my single engine days (I regularly flew my Bonanza from Texas to Florida and Mexico across the Gulf), I would carry a raft. I sold it when I moved to a twin, considering it unnecessary. I felt stupid for this while floating ear-level in the ocean, but in all reality I highly doubt I could have wrestled it out of the plane in the amount of time I had.
You know, this brings up a good point: how much can you grab and hold on to before egress? You only need it, say, one in a million. Of course when your million is up, boy you with you had it. How many survive the crash but succumb to the injuries or exposure later on? Or worse...predators.
Er.A.K. Mittal 3
Mr. TW, Can you and/or your colleagues at FA organize a way to align the squawk replies on date/time basis? Or it is there and I do not know it?
Tim Duggan 5
Mr. Theodore Wright:

My experience with an airplane fire isn't quite as dramatic as compelling as YOURS is, mine is just a "cautionary tale" that didn't happen to kill me (and everyone else).

Circa 1982...I was F/O on an SA-226 "Metroliner"....N63SA, if you care to look up the Accident Report.

Preparing to depart KPSP for KLAX. Nighttime. Just after dusk, IIRC. As F/O, I called KPSP Ground for taxi, with the ATIS. SAME moment, I adjusted my Instrument Panel Lights rheostat. A spark ensued...this happened FAST! The two pilots, CA and myself, had a "Hot Mic" between our headsets, through the audio panels.

I said something to the effect "I smell something burning..." When Keith, the CA mentioned smelling something as well. It was exactly like burning wire insulation, to my nose. I also saw sparks and flames begin, out the corner of my eyes, to the right and near my knees.

Unbeknownst to us, later to be revealed. the rheostat that controlled instrument light dimming arced, and...also unknown, the cockpit/cabin sound insulation had been soaked with hydraulic fluid, for some time, due to a tiny leak at a fitting to one of the direct-reading hydraulic gauges. Unlike Part 25-certificated airliners, back in this day the "Commuter" airplanes didn't have to be designed to such stringent specifications.

We evacuated there, on the RAMP of course....and except for minor smoke inhalation injuries, there were no lasting medical issues. Pointing out that the CAPTAIN, Keith was his name, STAYED in and directed the EVAC...and I made sure all who exited the front-left MAIN door went FORWARD to avoid the still-spinning propeller.

Many PAX exited via the over-wing hatches....all were unharmed.

THIS scenario (the fire....FED, as it happens, by ANOTHER poor design of the Swearingen Metroliner -- SA-226 -- the proximity of the CREW O2 line, in the cockpit side panels...vinyl or plastic O2 lines, NOT aluminium. ONCE those were subjected to the fire, they were like a blowtorch...brief, but effective.

One of the most JARRING aspects of this story? The same airplane was repaired...put back into service, and then "Named", the "Phoenix".

N63SA. Feel free to look it up. Was owned, in 1982, by Sun Aire Lines, based in Palm Springs, CA...(KPSP).

Like I said....your forethought and skill allowed you to make a very bad situation (an In-Flight fire) survivable. Had MY fire occurred just five, or ten minutes later, after we were airborne?? I am not sure I'd be here, writing this post right now....
AccessAir 3
There is thought that this kind of fire might have been the possible same cause of a Britt Airways SA-226 Metroliner II, N63Z that crashed 14 Jan 1984 on takeoff from Terre Haute, Ind. The three who were onboard the plane died. It had just gotten airborne and moments later it crashed. The plane was on a positioning flight. The flight crew and a Customer Service manager.
Aircraft19 2
Amazing story
You guys are really lucky
Glad you're okay
David Semak 2
I like happy endings, and good stories. In aviation we usually learn from our mistakes especially when the crew survives, it's always good to know what caused the accident. Good luck with your next twin.
Thank you! I have since moved into a turbine. Look for a future article about this piston pilot transitioning into a VLJ!
Er.A.K. Mittal 2
What an ordeal to go through and so calmly! With utmost presence of mind!
Rightly said one should always (as far as possible, per me) be prepared for the worst.
Yes, in every aspect of personal or professional life the PIC (incl. person in charge) should never never flinch to maintain and assume responsibility.
An eye opener and a grand narration.
From a less informed guy.
Er.A.K. Mittal 0
less informed guy - me
Gene spanos 2
Glad you made it through sir!
JetChaser 2
Thanks for sharing, it was an inspiring read.
Jpliego 2
Great read, thanks for sharing your experince.
Mark Coffman 2
Nice job ! Thanks for sharing.
Darren Shields 2
I found it strange that a nearby vessel didn't see you streaming smoke and ditching. I'll bet they were running drugs! ;-) Glad you made it out and I'll for certain make some modification in my flight bag based on your experience.
Er.A.K. Mittal 2
I guess there is a WRITTEN code of conduct for sea going vessels about such emergencies! And those guys can be held guilty of breach of conduct.
Just a thought.
Guy Cocoa 5
46 U.S.C. section 2304.5 “A master or individual in charge of a vessel shall render assistance to any individual found at sea in danger of being lost, so far as the master or individual in charge can do so without serious danger to the master’s or individual’s vessel or individuals on board.”
dfcully 2
More likely they simply weren't paying attention, cruising along on the boat's autopilot. Distance and lighting conditions may well have kept the smoke trail (likely minor from an outside perspective) from being as obvious at it might seem. Engine and wind noise and an enclosed cabin effectively render the crew deaf to any noises, likely faint anyways. Once on the water, the airplane (before disappearing) and occupants blend in between the swells becoming specks, if still visible.
Both of you were very lucky to still be here. That Gulf has Sharks because I have had few on my fishing line. I very happy you are safe and sound.
Ethan McDowell 2
Looks like you went down not too far from Head of Passes. Rather surprised there weren't other vessels waiting for a pilot up the Miss out there.

Good job keeping your cool in that situation, the sign of a true professional. Bravo Zulu.
Carlos Bea 2
Grrrrreat read!!!!!!
Glenn Stagg 2
Just out of interest should your on plane gear not also include a dayglow or high visibility type vest which you and pax don when you board your plane. It would have made you a lot more visible in the water and perhaps you would have been spotted sooner
Richard Bond 2
Our 406 went off when our plane made an excursion from the runway. Before the pilot could get out and call someone, Coast Guard in Hawaii had already called and locked in the position of the plane. Our plane was near the Great Lakes!

One thing about 406 ELT's. They do also transmit on 121.5, but at about 10% power level of what the 121.5 ELT's transmitted at. And the searching aircraft needs to have their locating radio tuned to look for a 406.
shane mcmahon 2
Congratulations, You did very well
Incredible story of survival. Shows the importance of thorough preparation before any journey. Congratulations on your actions that saved you and your passenger. I wonder what the yacht was doing!
AWAAlum 2
I may be overly dramatic, but my first thought when the yacht completely ignored the emergency was - drugs.
Glenn Stagg 2
Just a thought but would it also not be an idea to keep lightweight vests that are brightly colored such as Dayglow with reflective material. These can be kept on the plane and worn by yourself and Pax as soon as the aircraft is boarded. This high visibility may ensure quicker detection in the water. Whatever, I for one am impressed by your coolness under the life threatening conditions you found yoourself in
Sorin Sterescu 2
Chils went down my spine upon reading this story
Tom McLean 2
I have owned 3 Barons. It is a wonderful airplane but the Janitrol heater always concerned me. Seems like there is a better way to heat the cabin. Piper uses engine heat. it's a good thing you were over water. Thanks for sharing your story.
Bryan Marshall 2
Well done on a lucky escape, reads well,frightening don't let it put you off in future.
Wow,What an amazing story,Glad you Guys made it, well done Captain
Mark Hangen 2
You tease us with a transition to a VLJ but provide no details. That's just wrong ;-)

Did you find the time to use the fire extinguisher and did it help? Do you think the storm window and door would have helped smoke situation inflight? I have a 310 with the same heater. Difference is that there is no storage in the nose. It seems you think the bags near the heater was the culprit.
Please stay tuned for the VLJ transition story! This should be up next week sometime. I did not attempt to use the fire extinguisher. It would not have been possible to get to where the fire was, and I believe it would have made things worse. I opened both the storm window and popped the door into the trailing position right away. It helped to suck the smoke out of the cockpit. I believe the heater somehow started everything in the nose on fire. Perhaps a temperature runaway ...
840MD 1
Do you recollect if you had an old style (mechanical) temp control or one of the newer electronic style units? Easy way to know is how hard it was to turn the knob! If it took a little effort it was likely the older style.

Robert K 2
Yes, you are. As an ex military jock it has saved my bacon, and friends as well! So if this is an ad for Brietling Emergency, that's OK!
Cole Pierce 2
One item of standard issue in my Navy survival vest and possibly the most valuable was the signal mirror. The viewing window has a precise aiming dot. It's visible for many miles and requires no external source of power other than a fairly clear view of the sun. When the chips are down, that's the time to keep a clear head, and you obviously did. Nice work.
I have run through an emergency landing in the water many times in my head. I use to fly my husband and I back and forth from ft Lauderdale and our Long Island, Bahamas home. Stories like this are so valuable. Thanks for sharing.
Joe Mama 2
WOW... Great sailing!!!!
Keith Hartzog 2
I have an app on my ipad that flash's SOS. Dont know that it is bright enough to be seen in daylight from altitude but it would work great at night.
Phenomenal experience! I know that Gulf well and my hats off to your ability, iPad and reserve.
Sharon Stewart 2
By the Grace of God and your exceptional piloting skills! I think this is the case for anyone flying over water to make certain you have proper equipment . Not necessarily life raft equipment, but at least life vests and a personal locater beacon ON YOUR PERSON. I routinely fly from Atlanta to St Pete on a regular basis. ATC routinely places us 5 to 10 miles off shore. Even this short distance needs some sort of emergency preparedness. Thanks for your story!
Glad to hear that you are safe and sound. Thanks for sharing and so sorry to hear about the airplane!
Jeff Bishop 2
Very cool. Thanks.
727stretch 2
Nope, for once the title is not an over-blown media attention-getter. Definitely horror. Nice job.
jcyanez77 2
Thank you for sharing this terror experience, we all need to be better prepared
Great job and thanks a million for sharing this.
Michael Bevan 2
One important point. A PLB as a backup where you can grab it would have provided both a 406 alert and the 121.5 terminal homing signal that the SAR people look for. With a stronger and longer lasting signal than the transmitter in the wristwatch.

A secondary point, sailing in the gulf I have encountered motor yachts apparently on autopilot and not keeping much of a lookout. It's most likely the yacht never saw you. Also, having stood quite a few bridge watches, a light plane would want to be close enough for it to seem dangerous to have a likelyhood of being noticed.
This is such an amazing story !!!!! You did such a great job ! Bravo !
I owned a Baron a few years ago, probably similar to yours ...
Today I'm flying a KingAir instead, but I will anyway keep you story in mind for the future !
Thanks for sharing this with us !
Ryan Smith 3
Unfortunate you had the opportunity to tell the story, but a very well written account!
Toby Sharp 2
U mean fortunate he had the ability to tell the story!
Nah, I think he meant unfortunate because it happened...
A cautionary tale - The NTSB has ranted on incessantly about GA Pilots making one bad decision after another when emergency strikes - yet you clearly had done a lot of thinking and pre-planning, and were able to do things in the proper sequence and turn what could have been a fatal event into a fascinating tale of cool under pressure.

Such stories are the stuff that gives many 'pause' about flying private aircraft. No matter how skilled a pilot you are, sometimes bad things happen. Say instead of being over water you were over rugged mountains with no nearby airport or even a good sized lake?

It's a huge relief to see that you made it out. Good job! And good job keeping your passenger distracted and upbeat.
Robert- You are correct about people hearing this sort of thing and possibly becoming hesitant to fly in a small aircraft. I have also recently overheard several people say they don't want to fly on an airliner in the wake of the Asiana crash several weeks ago. Strangely, you do not hear people say that they will no longer drive in a car after learning of a nasty car accident ....
WithnailANDi 1
There are scads of people who never get their driver's licenses because of exactly this reason. One of my in-laws is just such a person. His best friend in highschool was killed in a car accident, and he never got a driver's license as a result.
glang3 2
There was a B58 that went down in NC about a year ago and they think that was due to the heater also. Very unfortunate. Very glad to hear of your successful ditching!
Robert Mark 2
So think this guy cooked up this whole story just to pitch Brietling?
That's quite a stretch considering it didn't save them anyone I'd say.
Tim Baker 1
The event of ditching in the water is true! Its almost a year ago now, this type of incident has a delayed effect on the brain(ptsd) so yah to publish the story some time after the event is very understandable.

"I had a SPOT in my emergency bag. Unfortunately, I was not wearing my Breitling Emergency on this day."

Apparently the Breitling Emergency has a capacity to indicate location to others, being wearable could be the key to its capability over other devices. SPOT does nothing apparently.

"The USCG helicopter was searching for a 121.5 beacon. Had I been wearing my Breitling Emergency, we would have been located and picked up about one hour sooner — I don't plan on wrecking any more airplanes, but I won't climb into one unless it is on my wrist."

I'm sure everyone seen the video of the chap was flying a Yak 50 and the off airport landing appears legit. The video quality is amazing!

The crash video turns into a "Bremont" watch ad.
What ever?
Karl Sommer 1
Sure glad to hear the good outcome, and you guys got picked-up.I do fly with the early model SPOT and test it often by letting my friends know where I am at "I am O.K." it always worked. Did you push the 911 or the HELP ? That would be very disappointing not getting a response. Thanks for sharing.
tbscotty54 1
In cat lives you are down to 8! Get some dough from Breitling for the ad.
Stanley Zamkow 1
I do more than a bit of overwater so I appreciate the lessons. Thank you for the story.

Might I ask what happened with the SPOT locator? You mentioned it was in your emergency kit. While it shouldn't happen, I can accept that the installed 406 MHz ELT could have been damaged in the crash and didn't provide exact location. But I am very curious why the SPOT didn't provide exact GPS coordinates for your rescue? That is its main function and it should not have been damaged in your bag.
Sendero 1
I too would like to know what happened to the SPOT and why it didn't help in this situation?
Andrew Taylor 1
How about 1 orange smoke canister and 3 flares in your bag?
AWAAlum 1
Boy all this looks so familiar - even the responses. Am I hallucinating?
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
Dear Friend, I made a request/suggestion about 10 days ago to work out a system to locate 'new' comments.
And you guys have done it by marking them as "new"! I have also noticed that that this label "new" appears not on the basis of time, BUT on the basis it being 'new' for the particular reader's computer! Its a great help to locate the 'unread' comments.
flyerh 1
Very interesting. Years ago in Flying magazine they had a monthly article entitled "I learn about flying by this"..... or something like that. One had to do about what to do if suddenly a VFR pilot was put into an IFR situation. I read it, and it saved my life along with 3 others in our C172 over northern Quebec. I'll skip all the details save to say, forced down to tree top level by unforecast weather, flying in cloud, I would not have known what to do except for having read that article. Your experience may proof beneficial to someone else. I hope so.
Scott Musser 1
When I had my 340, I was always uncomfortably aware of the Janitrol heater, making fire just a few feet in front of my panel. You could always smell it when it turned on and I'm happy to not be flying behind one today. Open flame fire in an airplane just doesn't seem to be a good match.
frbnsn 1
Good to know you all made it out safe. Thanks for sharing your story.
Guy Medlock 1
How did the meetings go?
Richard Dugger 1
Great job with a happy ending.

I am happy your are able to tell the tale.
Thanks for sharing!!
AWAAlum 1
What is going on - I'm so confused. I noted in a post earlier today that this post looked very familiar. I then noticed most of the responses were months old. Now - my earlier post has disappeared without a trace. Curiouser and curiouser.
Larry Lorc 1
Why does the NTSB report say it was a Cessna 177b and the story says Beechcraft Baron, very different planes, which is at the bottom of the gulf?
Clyde Koral 1
Is there some way an iPad could be configured to send a distress message? It's already able to receive GPS signals and could relay an exact position to rescuers. If Breitling can make a watch for such situations, an iPad would have even more power. Can the Coast Guard be sent an email?

[This poster has been suspended.]

PhotoFinish 1
Apple sells you the iPad.

Someone else would have to write the app and sell it for whatever price they want. They could give it away for free to save lives or they can charge $50,000 or anthrung in between. They'll be more likely to sell a bunch if the price is reasonable. If an external hardware piece needs to be built, that would add to the real costs.

Note that in order for the iPad to send email it would have to be in range of cellular coverage. If you're in range, an iPhone with a waterproof case can also GPS locate. You can call/text/email anyone you want and tell them where you are.

If there's a market, go ahead and make it.
Write an app to capture and send/ make available your location. Sell it in the App Store.

Without cell coverage, you'll need a marine radio or satellite technology.
Luck was on your side.
Wow! Congratulations on a successful outcome. Have you retired your wings? Your story has me wondering if its really worth it. I am sure your many flight hours helped you immensely in this situation... Not sure I would have fared the same fate.
Glad all endd well
Would a smoke flare have insured a rescue in the event of a non-sighting as told by the USCG who found it difficult to spot you in the water?
AWAAlum 1
Well - isn't this interesting!
Mark Denny 1
Would a smoke flare have insured a rescue in the event of a non-sighting as told by the USCG who found it difficult to spot you in the water?
AWAAlum 1
Well - isn't this interesting!
john picker 1
I'm a little unclear...did you activate the SPOT? In SOS mode? If so, and no response, I'd really like to know. Keep paying them $100/year which, if it doesn't work, is a waste and fraud. Glad you're safe.
Glad you are safe. Please verify that your flight path was direct from Houston area to SRQ.As far I can see from your article, that is my understanding. If so what was your your cruising altitude on your flight plan ? Thanks.
Routing for this flight is LEV Q100 SRQ. 11,000 FT.
Kurt57 1
Did you use the SOS button on the SPOT? If so, did it have anything to do with the rescue? I always carry a spot with me but have never had the 'opportunity' to use the SOS so I am curious about yours. So glad you made it back safe. Thanks for sharing your story.
George Cella 1
Great job guys. Glad all is well, except the Baron. I carry a cheap $10.00 signal mirror in my pocket of all of my flights. Even on overcast days it can be seen for miles. I once used it to vector in a rescue helicopter after I had shot 8 pengun flares directly at, in front of and to the sides of the chopper. As a last resort, I used the mirror. The chopper saw the flash immediately and flew right to my position. He told me he never saw the flares but spotted the mirror immediately. I was convinced, the small mirror stays in my pocket.
Sharon Stewart 1
George, I just took my 6" portable magnifying cosmetic mirror and put it in my ditch bag.
dtiller 1
I don't think you want to use a magnifying mirror. It will not provide a sharp reflection due to the curved nature of the mirror. A small plain mirror would be better, IMHO.
George Cella 1
The beauty of the signal mirror is the fact that it has a circle in the center that allows you to "aim" the mirror reflection. The glass is very thick and will not break easily. Ever a common CD works.
121.5 MHz is he only way to go; you could even get a ham radio operator getting that on his scanner to know something was up.
theoph 1
I would be thinking about sharks the whole time!
Sani Bala 0
Fantastic effort, but remember, it was all God's help
dfcully 0
And I say unto you:

Isn't it peculiar how selective God is about those he helps and those he ignores when such things happen? Seems kinda random and arbitrary considering how so many serious mishaps end greusomely despite the sincere religiosity of so many of those involved. I'd bet God wouldn't have been so helpful had they been cruising another 2,000 feet higher, adding another minute to the descent. If it was God's Plan for the pilot to select 11,000' instead of climbing to a more efficient higher cruising altitude requiring the use of supplemental oxygen, why couldn't God have simply caused the pilot to cancel the flight in the first place?

And where might God have been during the prelude to this uncontrollable in-flight fire? The only reasonable, non-apologetic answer to this question is: "In my imagination The Lord dwelleth".


[This poster has been suspended.]

[This poster has been suspended.]

[This poster has been suspended.]

dfcully 2
Thank you God or Satan (whomever is more powerful... one would assume it to be Big G, begging the question, "why does God allow Satan to exist?" ...perhaps God just needs an excuse for failure) for Sani Bala's statement which inspired The evil Karl Schneider to point me toward , a well-crafted and conceived website for reason.
AWAAlum 2
Quite of few are getting off thread. This is a aeronautics site, not one on religion.

[This poster has been suspended.]

AWAAlum 2
But off topic.
Brian Bishop 1
You're entitled to your beliefs, but just shut up already.....
Barbara Clark 0
Did you ever stop to think that a higher power had more to do with your "decisive action" than you did? I personally think that it was God who saved you, not luck. Won't you ask Him to come into your heart and live for Him and thank Him for permitting you to have more life? You will really begin to live and also have eternal life."For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
WithnailANDi 1
Did you ever stop to think "people have the right to decide for themselves"? Nope, didn't think so. This guy was thinking on his feet, and it was his training and quick efficient action that got them out of the mess.
John Hayde 0
I am thinking that a simple mirror might have been valuable in signaling those planes/helicopter that passed close by while you were in the water. It would have cost next to nothing and weighs very little. I am assuming of course that the weather conditions were suitable but signaling mirrors have always been recommended as a way to signal in times of distress.
Tim Baker -4
Am I the only one to see this as a "Breitling Emergency" sales ploy??? Some very creative writing and new sales and nothing more.
Dennis Florian -1
You should take legal action against the company that installed the 406 EGP ELT and the manufacturer. The real question is why the system didn't work as designed. Seems like you kept your cool and kudo's to a succesful ditch. Glad you shared the story.
BDuffey 2
Legal action? Really?
That kind of attitude is what is killing general aviation.
They are alive and well, what would the damages be? An extra hour in the water, how much do you get for that?
The ELT didn't cause the problem, had minimal time to function and was most likely submerged in salt water.
I Wonder what an ELT would cost after a "successful" legal action?
How many owners would not get one in the near future secondary to the increased cost in your scenario?

I am glad everyone is alive and well. Sorry the aircraft was lost, but the people inside are what is important.

Great flying job!
John Bode -2
Why didn't you have your Breitling beacon with you? Was it because they didn't give it to you until after they saw you on the news? I don't want to diminish the telling of your experience, but the watch beacon is a distraction.
smoki -2
Disagree with CG's assessment they did it right (the ditching). Should've ditched immediately next to the yacht whose occupants were obviously enjoying a relaxing day and view with their heads firmly planted up their backsides. How do you miss an airplane on fire, trailing smoke and splashing down into the ocean out in front of you unless.....?

Another gotcha relying on more electronic Bells or Whistles that didn't work. When doing a water crossing like this a vest should be worn in which a survival radio and day/night flare is securely carried? The only thing that ultimately saved them was the fact they were on an IFR Flight Plan.

All the electronic gadgetry failed and that Breitling thing on the wrist for next time? Don't count on it. And why would you sell your rubber raft dinghy just because you're operating a twin Baron over water? Let me guess, you're a doctor or a lawyer?
Mr. Young- I got as close as possible to the yacht without putting them in peril (one of our responsibilities as PIC is not to endanger innocent bystanders). I lived aboard a sailboat for 2 years and cruised, almost making it around the world, so I can tell you that many times while offshore it is not possible to always be on watch. Sometimes you are down below making a sandwich, in the head, or possibly taking a nap. The life raft would not have helped one bit, it almost certainly would have went down inside the aircraft. It would have been nearly impossible to get it out of the aircraft, even if it had been placed directly behind us in the back seat. The IFR flight plan certainly helped, but we drifted a couple miles from where the plane sank. We were the proverbial needle in the haystack!
John Bode -4
This story may be true for the most part. I didn't bother researching it to confirm because I couldn't get past the watch crap. A Watch beacon? Really? Have you tested the range of the over-hyped watch? If so, was it greater than 100 feet? Can you say Bose, Dyson, Breitling, Fool?
Sharon Stewart 4
You can look this up, it is a true story. Why the cynicism?
Mr. Bode, we all have to decide for ourselves where we want to spend our money on equipment. 100 feet? The manufacturer of the beacon claims up to 90 miles under ideal conditions. One could reasonably assume much less, but all I needed was a couple miles for them to home in on us. If you feel the watch is over-hyped, by all means don't buy one! For me, it offers an extra bit of comfort. For this same reason, I had the 406 beacon installed in my aircraft when other owners were reluctant to spend the money. Also, FWIW, I believe Bose makes one of the best aircraft headsets on the market (although I will not look back after making the switch to Clarity Aloft).
Fabian Buchholz -4
.. and my congrats for keeping a cool head in a situation like no one wants to ever experience, Sir, if this story is really true.
Fabian Buchholz -6
I wouldn't call this a mere 'incident'.. more like a full blown emergency. And draining your ipad's batteries playing games while trading the waters of a shark infested gulf sounds quite foolish and unrealistic to me. Sure you are not working for Breitling? I do wear my Emergency whenever I'm out there drilling holes into the clouds.. but this sounds like a fairytale to me.

[This poster has been suspended.]

Mike Meyer 3
Good job>

I am pleased that the two souls on board are safe.
However, I have many unanswered questions (RED FLAGS) from the very beginning of the well "written story". Here is why: Preparation for a SAFE FLIGHT is the key to mitigating the RISKS. Maintenance of the aircraft including all systems on board ( regardless of FAR requirements) is the PIC's responsibility.If the fire started by the Janitrol heater as the PIC suspected, then he has to address the maintenance history and shed some light to help others focus on the neglected item. If you did not test the unit for safe operation, do not use it.
The item that is equally important is the decision to file IFR on a direct route over water without life vests or flotation and survival gear. I guess they did it several times before and it worked uneventfully, but getting away with something is not a positive SAFETY CULTURE. My comments are intended to strictly focused on safety.
Thanks for the comments. Please allow me to clear up some of your confusion. I maintain all of my aircraft with an open checkbook. The janitrol heater was replaced with a brand new unit about 10 months prior to this incident. Not overhauled, not repaired, but brand new. It wasn't cheap, but cost is not a consideration for me when performing aircraft maintenance. There was never any neglected item. Even new parts fail. In fact, often times new parts fail more often than old ones! Sometimes, things just happen. Also, I would never attempt any flight without appropriate emergency equipment. In this case, I had PFDs for each passenger and an emergency kit . Without these items, I probably wouldn't be writing this article. I would be happy to discuss in further scope about 'positive safety culture,' as I have been speaking to pilots about this in safety workshops around the world.
Thanks for clarifying the maintenance concerns.
Please, let us discuss POSITIVE SAFETY CULTURE anytime !!!!!
Ernie Kindree 0
I carry a radio, GPS, and flair gun with many batteries in a waterproof case on all flights. This may have helped.


Don't have an account? Register now (free) for customized features, flight alerts, and more!
Did you know that FlightAware flight tracking is supported by advertising?
You can help us keep FlightAware free by allowing ads from We work hard to keep our advertising relevant and unobtrusive to create a great experience. It's quick and easy to whitelist ads on FlightAware or please consider our premium accounts.