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Lessons Learned
Successful Ditching Off Hilo, Hawaii

This is complied from news reports and personal messages to Equipped To Survive from the pilot involved. Links to related information on his site are included.

Hilo, Hawaii (April 12, 1997):

Passengers on an Aloha Airlines flight helped locate two people floating in a raft Thursday after their twin-engine Piper Navajo ditched in the Pacific 30 miles of the coast of Hawaii.

Shortly after the plane went down northeast of this Hawaiian island, Aloha Airlines Flight 404 from Honolulu to Hilo joined in the search and pilot Bob Bryant asked passengers to keep their eyes open for the plane.

"We circled a couple of times when I saw two persons on a life raft," said passenger Ronie Cabison.

Five rows back, passenger Anthony Locricchio noticed the bright florescent green sea dye the pilot used to mark the site of the crash.

The Aloha jet remained in the search area 30 miles offshore for a half hour and did not leave until a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules arrived.

The two people aboard the downed plane - pilot Kenneth Landau, 28, of Alameda, Calif., and passenger, James I. Branch, 27, of Australia - suffered only minor injuries and refused medical treatment.

The two had taken off from Hilo bound for Hayward, Calif., when one engine failed. They immediately turned back, but the plane was laden with extra fuel for the long flight to the mainland and was too heavy to maintain altitude on one engine. Since they were still in contact with Air Traffic Control, emergency search and rescue (SAR) operations were begun immediately, including notification of the Aloha jet approaching Hilo for landing to look for survivors.

The pilot successfully ditched the aircraft and both pilot and passenger were able to get out safely. Lucky for the pilots, they had two life rafts on board, because one was holed when the plane rolled over and sank. Because they were close to shore and were immediately located, they had to wait only two hours for rescue.

(NOTE: What follows are excerpts from messages received from the pilot, Ken Landau. Ken has just begun a job that includes light aircraft deliveries throughout the Pacific, including Australia. We had been discussing over the past month the purchase and outfitting of a Winslow two person double tube life raft for his use on these flights.)

"Thanks for your response to my long Email. I have been out of town for a week. Surprisingly enough, I had to ditch a Piper Navajo in Hawaii a few days ago. Fortunately, it was an easy ditching and an easy rescue. I was using a borrowed EAM liferaft and was in the water for only 2 hours. The good news is that I learned some things about water survival. I suppose that I am also lucky that I did not lose a newly purchased Winslow raft.

Some of the insights that I gained:

I got seasick twice in 2 hours. I would not have had the energy to erect a canopy. I was quite seasick after all.

I got very cold even though I was only 30 miles from Hawaii and it was sunny and 75 degrees. I think that I will equip my raft with some sort of sack that I can crawl into. An inflatable floor would probably also have helped. I am pretty thin and generally tend to get cold quite easily.

Sea Dye is very painful to the touch. Some spilled in the raft, and it was stinging both of us pilots.

The Coast Guard C-130 dropped us a radio. Their aim was bad, and we had to paddle about 150 feet with our hands (two of us in an EAM-5).

A 2-tube raft is worthwhile. We had two identical EAM-5 rafts. The rafts were just single-chamber non-approved EAM rafts. Suitable for our 2-hour stay, but not so reliable nor comfortable. One sprang a leak due to the airplane rolling over and cutting into the raft. So, we both went into the other raft.

Ferry flying is more dangerous than I imagined. I was quite lucky to be in close VHF contact with ATC before I ditched. I have been in areas where nobody was within 300 miles of me, and I couldn't reach anyone on 121.5 or any other frequency. This convinces me of the need for communications while in the raft. An ELT and a Comm would satisfy this need.

Ken Landau"

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Ken's lessons learned follow closely the recommendations found here on Equipped To Survive. For additional information related to this subject follow these links:

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