A former Alaska bush pilot safely avoided beachgoers when he crash-landed his small airplane in the ocean just off a beach on Oahu's North Shore after running out of fuel.
Greg Harding, 59, considered landing the plane on either a road or the beach, but then he saw about a dozen people on shore, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://is.gd/3Q58bL ).
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Harding said the engine "just quit" about 10 minutes after he released a glider, which had an instructor and student onboard, from the plane late Wednesday morning. The plane had been towing the lighter aircraft with no engine at about 3,000 feet.
The one-seat Piper PA-25-260 belongs to the North Shore Aircraft Leasing Co.
Company owner Ana "Suzy" Gromacki said Harding ran out of fuel at Kaena Point as he approached Dillingham Airport, and he was trying to make it to the roadway.
He opted for the water landing because "he didn't want to hurt anybody," Gromacki said. She praised Harding's piloting skills and noted that if the plane had overturned, he might not have survived.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.
Fire Capt. David Jenkins said Harding wasn't injured, and was able to get himself out of the plane after the crash landing. Harding used two cable attached to the plane to pull it close to shore, where he tied it to a sign post, Jenkins said.
Harding said he needed a "nice long stretch" to land the plane, and initially scanned the beach for such a spot.
"Won't these people move out of the way?" he said he thought to himself.
Harding moved to Honolulu from Kotzebue, Alaska, nine months ago. He flew planes in Alaska for 40 years.
Gromacki said the plane was totaled, and sitting in saltwater for an hour probably ruined the engine.
National Transportation Safety Board records show the plane had substantial damage in October 1974 when a complete engine failure caused a forced landing in Roaring Springs, Texas. Gromacki said she and her husband rebuilt the plane in 1998.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com