Pel-Air Westwind VH-NGA operating a Careflight International aeromedical evacuation flight from Apia in Western Samoa to Melbourne made a successful emergency night ditching near Norfolk Island after apparent fuel exhaustion on Wednesday evening after encountering “deteriorating weather conditions”.
“After several unsuccessful approaches and with diminishing fuel, the pilot-in-command, Captain Dominic James, made the decision to carry out a controlled landing onto the water off the coast of Norfolk Island,” a joint Pel-Air/Careflight statement issued this morning reads.
“The aircraft, a specially-equipped medical retrieval Westwind jet, carried out a successful landing on the water and the patient, accompanying spouse and two medical crew as well as the pilots evacuated safely. They were rescued by boat and brought to the local Norfolk Island hospital for observation. The Captain reported that all passengers and crew did not have any apparent injuries.”
According to reports it took rescuers 90 minutes to find and rescue the passengers and crew from the water, with the aircraft sinking soon after the ditching. Three of the six were wearing lifejackets, while the liferaft was not deployed.
The ditching has sparked much debate in the pilot community, particularly over the apparent lack of fuel for an alternate to Norfolk Island.