Coast Guard Captures Amazing Video of Parachuting Plane

January 26, 2015, 4:57 PM HST · Updated January 28, 10:50 AM
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By Maui Now Staff


The propeller of a single-engine aircraft slowed to a stop in mid-air, as Coast Guard video captured the Cirrus SR-22 dropping nose-first before leveling out and landing in the ocean via parachute, 253 miles northeast of Maui on Sunday, Jan. 25.

The flight, en route to Kahului, originated east of the Bay Area in Tracy, California. The pilot radioed the Hawai‘i National Guard at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, about plans to ditch his plane due to a fuel issue. At around 4:44 p.m., the pilot deployed the airframe parachute system, and the aircraft made a water landing.

As Coast Guard footage captured, the pilot made it out safely, just seconds before the aircraft overturned. He’s shown waiting in the life raft for help to arrive. It arrived at 5:21 p.m. in the form of a cruise ship. The Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu connected with the cruise ship Veendam on its way to Lāhainā, and crews rescued the pilot. Weather conditions at that time were seas of nine to 12 feet and winds of 25 to 28 miles per hour.

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The pilot, identified as Lue Morton of Seattle, Washington, was reported to be in good condition. Morton was reportedly flying the plane for Seattle-based flight school The Flight Academy; he was said to be an experienced pilot and had flown to Hawai‘i before in the same kind of plane. The Cirrus SR-22 was equipped with a “ferry tank,” an auxiliary fuel container needed for longer flights, which was reportedly tested before take-off on Sunday. Media sources say there was plenty of fuel left in the tank, but according to the company, “the remaining fuel was unable to reach the engine for unknown reasons.”

A Coast Guard airplane from Air Station Barbers Point assisted the pilot and maintained communications throughout the process of ditching his aircraft. The Hercules crew remained on scene until the pilot was safely aboard the Veendam.

This was the first of two crashes into the Pacific Ocean near Hawai‘i on Sunday. In the second crash, a single-engine Cessna flying from Hanapepe, Kaua‘i, to Kalaeloa, O‘ahu, with four people aboard declared an emergency at 6:18 p.m.. The pilot said fuel was running low and the plane might need to ditch, according to the Coast Guard. At 6:27 p.m., the aircraft disappeared from radar and lost communications.

A Coast Guard helicopter crew reportedly found the survivors by seeing a light from a life jacket, and rescued three adults and one child, all in stable condition. The aircraft crash-landed about 11 miles west of O‘ahu.

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