Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Over Water, Under Canopy!

Saved by the BRS parachute

"I'm alright," Elaine says, but she was having a hard time with her seatbelt and her door. McGlaughlin's door opened fine, and his seatbelt came right off. Elaine's was easy to undo, then McGlaughlin sort of grabbed her and threw her out his door.

"She landed on the wing looking fine, and fell right into the water, looking cold and really frightened. 'Don't worry honey, I got this raft,'" McGlaughlin recounts.

He also grabs his money bag with his passport and credit cards, "All the stuff you don't want to lose track of," but can't find his glasses, gives up and scrambles out because the airplane is now settling fast, nose down, into the water.

He pivots to reach back inside, worried the plane might sink and pull him down to a watery grave, grabs the raft, yanks it out, stands on the wing, "and I pull that ripcord and the raft deploys, but we don't realize it's upside down for another half an hour!" And he laughs.

Help On The Way
"The ELB my friend Bruce Brown loaned me was connected to the raft. Apparently, you're supposed to keep it on your belt—I do that now. The state of our awareness was still impaired; we jumped on the raft then just started laughing.

"'It's good to be alive,' we said. We felt fine. The water wasn't that cold," McGlaughlin continues. Before long, it becomes evident they're floating in just 10 feet of water, two miles offshore as McGlaughlin had estimated when the engine seized.

"We settled into the raft, expecting the plane to sink, but it didn't. Stuff started floating out of the cockpit: a couple of oranges, some snacks and a little throwaway camera Elaine had brought, wrapped in watertight aluminum foil. We took some pictures, waited for awhile, then the Coast Guard came, first in a fixed-wing plane, which circled us. They could see the chute from 10 miles away, they told us later."

Elaine asked him, "How are they going to get us?"

"Well honey," McGlaughlin said, "I don't think they are in that plane, but it's really good to see 'em." Before long, "The Coast Guard version of a Blackhawk helicopter came. They dropped a swimmer, he asked if we were okay, then said, 'We're going to put you in a basket and up you go.'"

Dr. Richard McGlaughlin pauses, smiles, then says, "And that's how we got to Nassau that day. It took us another day to get to Haiti, but everybody was fine." His voice grows quiet. He looks at the floor for a moment, then finishes with, "Everybody was fine."


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