All On Board Survive Westwind Ditching in Pacific
Capt. Dominic James and first officer Zoe Cupit had a tough decision to make after three missed approaches during their attempt to land at Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. They were flying a medical transport–a female patient and her husband–from Apia, Western Samoa, to Melbourne, Australia. The pilots planned to land the Pel-Air charter Westwind II at Norfolk (1,473 nm from Apia) to pick up fuel, but upon arrival the cloud base was at 200 feet, according to Pel-Air. After three VOR approach attempts, the pilots elected to ditch the Westwind. It was dark, about 9:30 p.m. on November 18, and there was a five-foot swell. The pilots kept the landing gear retracted but deployed full flaps. “The aircraft was intact after landing, [the] patient and her husband and all crew [two pilots and two others] exited immediately and were in the water for about 90 minutes before being rescued by a fishing boat launched by the local rescue squad,” Pel-Air told AIN. “He made the right decision to carry out a controlled ditching rather than to persist with further attempts to land.” The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the ditching.