Savannah – This morning I made an early morning visit to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge; while on the way to breakfast around 0930, I began hearing an In-Flight Emergency (IFE) situation in progress south of Savannah. Savannah Approach/Departure was in communication with an aircraft that I could barely hear in reference to it declaring an emergency. The pilot of the aircraft told the controller that they were going to try to land on a beach and shortly thereafter the controller lost both radio and radar contact with the aircraft. No other aircraft reported picking up an ELT, so I was hoping that the pilot had been able to make a safe, controlled landing.
Things began to happen fairly quickly. The controller vectored a nearby aircraft to the area of the south end of Ossabaw Island near where the last radar contact was. After searching the area for a few minutes, that aircraft located the aircraft on the beach and reported that they could see the occupants outside of the aircraft. A US Coast Guard Auxiliary Aircraft, Auxiliary 41C, was also in the area and it headed towards Ossabaw Island as well. Just before 1000, US Coast Guard RESCUE 6550 (MH-65D, 6550, CGAS Savannah) departed Coast Guard Air Station Savannah at Hunter AAF for Ossabaw Island. There was encrypted communications on 413.000, CG 413, which Coast Guard Sector Charleston uses for communicating with USCG aircraft in the area, but there was also some traffic in the clear between Sector Charleston and 6550 on 157.050, Marine VHF Ch. 21. I could only hear Sector Charleston’s side of the traffic since I was so far away in Garden City, but 6550 picked up the occupants of the aircraft shortly after 1000 and transported them to CGAS Savannah, leaving the aircraft on the beach. I didn’t catch the N-number of the aircraft during the IFE, but the USCG photo below shows it to be a Cessna 210, N2246S, registered to a company out of Townsend, GA.
It was wonderful to listen to a rescue that had a good, safe conclusion. The controller handled the situation calmly, the pilot apparently cooly and calmly handled the emergency landing, the second aircraft deviated from its flight path to find the landing location, and the Coast Guard quickly got out to the location to recover the occupants. It was definitely not something you hear every day.