Pilot rescued after ditching plane off Big Island

Published: Oct. 7, 2011 at 7:44 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 17, 2011 at 2:15 PM HST
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Source: Paul Miyasaki
Source: Paul Miyasaki
Source: Paul Miyasaki
Source: Paul Miyasaki

HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Coast Guard crews rescued a pilot who ditched his plane about 13 miles off the Big Island because he ran out of fuel. Brian Mellor, 65, was flying a Cessna 310 twin-engine aircraft from Monterey, California to Hilo. He sent out a distress signal around 12:30 p.m. on Friday when he realized he was running low on fuel for the 2,200 mile journey.

"We just did a training mission yesterday. It was the exact same scenario. It was really funny. It was like, hey, you got a plane that's running out of gas before it's gonna make it to the airfield. So I was like alright, we're ready for this. We can do this," said Lt. Eric Majeska of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The crew on the C-130 Hercules intercepted the Cessna off the northeast coast of the Big Island and followed the plane for about 90 minutes. They helped Mellor prepare for the water landing before he ditched his plane

"He did it picture perfect. It was a textbook landing if there is such a thing in the water for an airplane like that," said navigator Ryan Rejzer. "He came in wings level and just brought it in as slow as he could and touched down."

"From our perspective, we were able to see him come out of the airplane moving so we were like overjoyed. He's good. The airplane was intact when it landed," said Petty Officer 2nd Class John Martinez.

Mellor escaped through a window and stood on a wing waiting for a rescue swimmer to reach him. He was loaded into a basket and lifted into a helicopter in just a few minutes. He was taken to the Hilo Medical Center for treatment.

"Either it was miscalculation with fuel or maybe unforecasted winds, headwinds to slow him down and eventually he didn't make it," said Rejzer.

The plane sank in about 15 minutes.

"It was remarkable how calm he seemed. He was very professional throughout the whole scenario, but I know I probably would have been a little more freaked out," Rejzer said.

Mellor has already been released from the hospital. The Coast Guard crew that saved him said they invited him to come over and share some drinks with them once he recovered.

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