Pilot's dramatic sea rescue

A PILOT had a lucky escape when his light aircraft plunged into the North Sea just off the Suffolk coast at speeds thought to be approaching 100mph.The man, who has not been named but is believed to be from Germany, was winched to safety by a RAF Sea King helicopter from Wattisham Airfield.

A PILOT had a lucky escape when his light aircraft plunged into the North Sea just off the Suffolk coast at speeds thought to be approaching 100mph.

The man, who has not been named but is believed to be from Germany, was winched to safety by a RAF Sea King helicopter from Wattisham Airfield.

As reported on The Evening Star's website yesterday the Cessna aircraft came down around 1.30pm yesterday 15 miles from Orford Ness after it ran out of fuel on its way to Clacton-on-Sea.

Officers from Wattisham were scrambled into action after receiving a mayday call from the Aeronautical Rescue Co-operation Centre at RAF Kinloss in north-east Scotland.

When the crew arrived on scene at 1.43pm there was no sign of the plane wreckage but the pilot was clearly visible in the water and was swimming towards a rescue boat from a nearby Russian tanker.

Two commercial aircraft, one from British Midland and another from British Airways, were also circling overhead to help rescuers pinpoint the stricken man.

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Within three minutes the pilot was winched to safety and flown to Ipswich Hospital complaining of back pain.

Flight lieutenant Steve Murkin, who captained the operation, said: “We had a mayday saying the pilot was running low on fuel and he had come down.

“We saw a man floating and swimming in the sea so could tell he was still breathing and conscious.

“We think he was in the water for 10 or 15 minutes. He said he hit the water at 90 knots, which is the equivalent of 100mph. He was extremely lucky there were people in the area that could help locate him.”

Flight lieutenant Dave Kay, co-pilot, said: “It was just a case of flying around and winching him up so it was quite a compact operation,” he said. “He was very lucky to come down near people and to have been found so quickly because if he had been by himself we would have had to have a full search operation and that's when hypothermia could become an issue.”

WEBLINK: www.eveningstar.co.uk

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