A civilian-operated twin-engine Beechcraft Baron was forced to make an emergency landing in the Gulf of Mexico on 21 September, after catching fire at 11,000 ft (3,350 m). The two pilots, Theodore Wright and Raymond Fosdick of Texas, US, both survived the crash and were picked up by a US Coast Guard (USCG) helicopter.
Speaking after a rescue, Fosdick said the cockpit filled with fire and smoke and they made an immediate descent. He credited Wright with making ‘a perfect crash landing’, hitting the water at 100 kts, skipping several times and then suddenly coming to a halt. The men then had only a matter of minutes to gather their essential gear – including a GPS beacon and flotation equipment – and evacuate before the plane submerged. They spent a further three hours in the water before a USCG helicopter, aided by a Customs and Border Patrol aircraft, was able to retrieve them.
USCG helicopter pilot Lt Becki Fosha commended the men for successfully ditching the plane: “They had a limited time to bring the aircraft to the water, and then they had about two minutes to get all of their survival gear together and get ready for a survival situation before the aircraft submerged. They had a GPS spot beacon. They had their current EPERB 406 beacon. They had floatation and survival equipment for just this kind of scenario.”
For two members of the Coast Guard flight crew, it was the first search and rescue (SAR) mission that they had flown over water. “There were no sharks in the area,” said rescue swimmer Aviation Survival Technician Sean Goodman. “There’s no alligators or anything like that. So, other than them crashing into the water, it was a pretty safe mission. We had two survivors and everything worked out perfect.”