Pilot Rescued by Cruise Ship After Ditching Plane Over Pacific

A pilot was rescued by a cruise ship after parachuting from a single-engine plane experiencing engine trouble over the Pacific Ocean.

The pilot, en route to Maui from Northern California, radioed authorities at 12:30 p.m. about plans to ditch his Cirrus SR-22 aircraft because of dwindling fuel, the U.S. Coast Guard said Sunday.

The Coast Guard directed the plane to go down near a cruise ship, and the pilot, identified as Lue Morton, of Seattle, deployed a parachute system around 4:45 p.m. and safely got into a life raft. Amid 9- to 12-foot seas and winds of 25 to 28 mph, the cruise-ship crew rescued the pilot, who was in good condition, authorities said.

"When everything started to go south, U.S. Coast Guard coordination with Holland was more than impressive working with the team when I was in the water (and) getting me out of there as quickly as possible," Morton said.

Earlier reports said the plane ran out of fuel. Morton was flying the plane for Seattle-based flight school The Flight Academy. The aircraft, which took off in Tracy, had plenty left in the tank, according to the company, but "the remaining fuel was unable to reach the engine for unknown reasons."

The plane was equipped with what’s called a ferry tank, an auxiliary fuel container necessary for longer flights. Tracy-based Skyview Aviation installed the tank, and the company's owner said it was tested before the pilot was allowed to take off on Sunday.

Morton is said to be an experienced pilot and has flown to Hawaii before in the same kind of plane.

Coast Guard video shows the plane releasing its parachute and briefly dropping nose-first before leveling out and plopping into the sea. The pilot escapes out the top of the aircraft and drifts away in a small raft from the plane before it rolls over on its top.

Holland America Line’s MS Veendam was in the middle of its round-trip Hawaii cruise from California when it was called into action.

The ship, which departed Jan. 20 from San Diego was en route to Lahaina, Hawaii, when it assisted in the rescue, cruise officials said.

NBC Bay Area's Kim Tere and Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us