Flying instructor: Cessna water landing off Big Island was textbook perfect

George Hanzawa
George Hanzawa

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those in Hawaii's aviation community are hailing the pilot of a Cessna for his emergency water landing 13 miles off the Big Island Friday. They say there are so many ways the tricky maneuver could have gone wrong.

"He's a very, very experienced pilot," George Hanzawa, George's Aviation Services, said. "Experienced pilots survive this kind of stuff."

Hanzawa says Brian Mellor is a ferry pilot, which means his job is to move aircraft from one place to another. The Cessna he was flying Friday remains at the bottom of the ocean.

It was reminiscent of Capt. Sully's "Miracle on the Hudson" landing in 2009. It wasn't a bird strike, but an empty fuel tank that forced Cessna pilot Brian Mellor to carry out a delicate landing in waters off the Big Island.

"You can see the same type of splash," Hanzawa said. "You see how he's coming in. He kept his wings level. He did everything correctly."

The 65-year-old began his solo journey in Monterey, California and sent out a distress signal when he realized he wouldn't have enough gas to reach land.

Coast Guard crews shadowed him, guiding him as best they could. But ultimately, it was Mellor who needed to bring the plane down without it tumbling or ripping apart.

"Watching what he did and the conditions that he was up against, there's so much factors that can go wrong," Hanzawa said. "Taking it just close to stall, you can see it's very, very slow, and took it right in and just slid it right in. It was textbook perfect."

Folks at George's Aviation Services in Honolulu know Mellor well.

"He had an angel on his shoulder," Hanzawa said. "I'm very, very happy for him. I know he'll get back in the saddle. He's very, very experienced. He's come through Hawaii numerous, numerous times. We see him out here quite often."

He says even the most experienced pilots can run out of fuel if weather conditions drastically change on them.

"You have wind predictions and you have measurements that come from National Weather (Service)," Hanzawa said. "But things change. Between Monterey and Honolulu is a long distance away and conditions change throughout the day."

Hanzawa plans to show the amazing water landing video to his flight students.

"We explain to students in pictorial, in cartoon character type situations," he said. "But when you actually have something like this from the Coast Guard, it is a very, very good learning tool for all the aviation community."

The National Transportation Safety Board says it's not yet sure if there will be an effort to retrieve the plane.

The Cessna is owned by a Delaware-based company, which says it is cooperating with the NTSB investigation but has no further comment.

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