Happy endings are uncommon when it comes to plane malfunctions requiring emergency landings, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night in the ocean.
The term “crash” is largely debated in this instance, as aviation folks seem to prefer soft landing or forced emergency landing. Whatever the case, the fact Tuesday’s situation off 23rd Street in Ocean City did not involve any injuries, or worse, was remarkable. The pilot deserves a tremendous amount of credit for expertly downing the plane in a location close enough to shore without putting anyone in danger. While there was certainly skill and training involved, there was also a bit of luck at play.
The timing of the event was quite fortunate for everyone. The pilot would not have been able to down the plane so close to shore if the situation unfolded three or four hours earlier in the day. There would have been swimmers in the ocean on what was a hot day. Additionally, the recovery effort of the plane would have been much more extensive if it were further offshore. The plane most likely would have sunk, and it stands to reason there could have been additional challenges for the pilot as well.
Recent history shows us mishaps with planes almost always have tragic consequences. Over the last 22 years, 14 people have died in the Ocean City area from aviation accidents. Besides the tragic accident in 2013 that resulted in the death of two off-season Ocean City police officers, the most high-profile and remembered plane crash in recent history occurred on Aug. 24, 1997 around 2 p.m. when a Waco Classic YMF-5 crashed into the ocean just off the coast of Ocean City claiming the lives of the pilot and its two female passengers.
The two passengers had purchased a 15-minute flight and the plane took off from the Ocean City Municipal Airport around 2:10 p.m. The doomed pilot radioed he had “two female passengers on board who wanted a thrill.” The plane flew the standard route east to the Inlet and then headed north to fly along the shoreline. While attempting to do an acrobatic move, the plane went vertical and plunged into the ocean with thousands of people watching the whole scene unfold from the beach in Ocean City.
Although that situation 22 years ago and this week’s soft ocean landing had different outcomes under different scenarios, it should be understood Tuesday’s situation could have been much different. Fortunately, thanks to an aware pilot trained in what to do when an engine malfunction occurs over water, there was remarkably not one injury in this week’s incident.