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Rescue of 4 follows plane’s ditch in Gulf

Sun., Dec. 5, 2010

NEW ORLEANS – With his engine failing, the pilot of a single-engine plane managed to maneuver the craft and three passengers to a safe splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the pilot of the Piper Malibu reported engine trouble around 2 p.m. Saturday, and the plane began to descend rapidly from about 26,000 feet. The flight had left Cozumel, Mexico, on its way to New Orleans.

The pilot’s ability to make radio contact with air-traffic controllers in Houston became spotty as he descended, and his last report to them came a few minutes before the craft hit the water. Commercial jets in the area helped relay visual information. One Delta Air Lines pilot went off course to keep an eye on the small plane, Lunsford said.

After gliding for about 25 minutes, the Piper Malibu splashed down near an oil rig about 175 miles southeast of New Orleans. A boat from the rig picked them up, and they were later taken to shore by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. Lunsford said the pilot and three others appeared to be in good condition, but were taken for a checkup at a New Orleans hospital as a precaution.


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