A pilot who was forced to ditch his single-engine plane in the Atlantic Ocean Thursday afternoon near Ocean Reef was rescued by two seaplane pilots headed to Miami to pick up a charter, according to county law enforcement and federal aviation officials.
The pilot, whose name was not disclosed, reportedly began having engine trouble with his Cessna 150 at 5:20 p.m. Thursday about seven miles off Ocean Reef, according to Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin and Federal Aviation Administration reports.
The pilot made a perfect "ditch," or water landing, said Key West Seaplanes pilot Julie Ann Floyd, who was following the Cessna. Floyd and co-pilot Nikali Pontecorvo were en route to Miami for a charter when tower dispatchers alerted them to the Cessna's troubles, she said.
When they made visual contact with the Cessna it was still in the air, but clearly having engine trouble. Unlike the seaplane, the Cessna was not equipped with water pontoons.
FAA records indicate the Cessna is owned by Earl Proball of Key Colony Beach, but it could not be confirmed if he was the pilot at the time. Messages left at Proball's home were not returned.
"He made a textbook ditch landing and within seconds he was in our plane," Floyd said. "He did exactly what he is supposed to do and exactly what we're trained to do. Regular airplanes obviously aren't supposed to land in the water, but pilots are trained in how to do it safely, and he did a great job."
The pilot was wet when he entered Floyd's seaplane, but he apparently suffered no injuries.
"The aircraft was lost, but he did everything right," Floyd said.
After retrieving the pilot, Floyd and Pontecorvo continued on to Miami International Airport, she said.
The FAA is investigating the incident, but has no further information, spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email to The Citizen.