A plane owned by Alaska Seaplanes made an emergency landing in Lutak Inlet late Wednesday morning north of Haines. No injuries were reported. Mechanical issues resulted in a loss of fuel pressure forcing the pilot, who was on his way to Skagway with one passenger, to call in a mayday and land on the water.
When Richard Hudler set off for Skagway from Haines Wednesday morning aboard a DeHavilland Beaver, he never thought he’d end the trip on a boat with a life vest on. But with the quick thinking and calm demeanor of veteran pilot Sam Stensland, the float plane landed safely. Here’s Hudler:
“It wasn’t too bad, actually. He was a good pilot and he was pretty cool, so … if he ain’t worried, I ain’t worried.”
Hudler says from the time the pilot realized something was wrong, to the time they landed was just a couple of minutes.
Sgt. Josh Dryden is the acting chief of the Haines Borough Police Department. He says they received a call shortly before noon about a downed plane north of the ferry terminal.
“We did not know it was float plane until we got on scene,” says Dryden.
Dryden says a helicopter pilot in the area spoke with the pilot and responded to the scene.
The plane, which did not lose power, puttered around in the inlet for about a half-hour.
A boat with assistant harbor master Gabe Thomas arrived to retrieve the passenger from the plane. Thomas says they heard “plane down” and didn’t hesitate to jump in the boat to help.
After a little while, the pilot made an adjustment to the aircraft and managed to take off. He circled around for several minutes before heading back to the Haines airport.
Seaplanes’ general manager Carl Ramseth says an out-of-town mechanic is on his way to Haines to “assess and address the issue.” Ramseth says he’s very thankful the outcome was positive.
On the scene was Seaplanes’ station manager Lori Carter.
“We’ve had a lot of planes coming and going with all the heliskiers,” says Carter. “We had three on the ground at one time. That last pilot that landed on a wheeled plane did let me know that there was mayday from the pilot Sam, in a Beaver, headed to Skagway. That pilot landed safely in the water and so he did radio right back and let the first pilot on the ground know that everything was fine, he was upright in the water, and floating toward shore.”
When Hudler was back on solid ground after his short flight, and even shorter boat ride, he was all smiles as he handed the life vest back to Carter:
“This is yours!”
“Well, if you’ve never had a good Alaska experience, you have now.”