Australian medivac aircraft ditches into sea, those on board safe

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A jet aircraft operated by Regional Express’ (Rex) Pel-Air made an emergency landing on water late yesterday off the coast of Norfolk Island.

The Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Westwind jet operated by Pel-Air was doing a flight from Apia in Samoa to Melbourne and was scheduled to make a fuel stop in the evening at Norfolk Island, says Pel-Air.

The pilot “encountered deteriorating weather conditions” and “after several unsuccessful approaches and with diminishing fuel, the pilot-in-command Capt Dominic James, made the decision to carry out a controlled landing onto the water off the coast of Norfolk Island.”

Pel-Air says the aircraft was on a medical evacuation flight and that the landing on water was successful enough that those on board - namely the patient, their accompanying spouse, two medical crew and pilots - evacuated safely. A boat rescued them and brought them to shore and the patient was sent to Norfolk Island hospital for observation, it adds.

Rex chairman Lim Kimhai says the Westwind landed on water about two kilometres from the shore.

He says the pilot “had kept trying and trying to land the aircraft on the runway” but there was poor visibility and once the aircraft’s fuel was depleted it was considered safer to land on water. Soon after people evacuated the aircraft, it sank, he adds.

According to Flightglobal’s ACAS database Pel-Air had nine Westwinds prior to yesterday. A Pel-Air spokeswoman, when contacted by ATI today, declined to give the aircraft’s registration.