The "Mini-Miracle" Down Under

Friday, Feb 6, 2009  |  Updated 3:21 PM EDT
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The dual-propeller Piper Chieftain experienced engine trouble shortly after takeoff from the frontier city of Darwin.

The dual-propeller Piper Chieftain experienced engine trouble shortly after takeoff from the frontier city of Darwin.

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A pilot guided a light plane and his five passengers to a safe landing in shallow waters in northern Australia on Friday — and walked away with his baggage.

The dual-propeller Piper Chieftain experienced engine trouble shortly after takeoff from the frontier city of Darwin. It quickly descended as pilot Steve Bolle sought a place on a nearby beach to make an emergency landing reminiscent of the dramatic splashdown of an Airbus 320 in New York's Hudson River last month.

The plane came to rest on a sand bar in Darwin Harbour in about two feet of water at low tide. All six people were able to wade the 200 yards to the beach. News photos showed a drenched Bolle lugging his bag ashore with him.

"The pilot should be commended for keeping a level head and acting appropriately to ensure the safety of his passengers," said Northern Territory emergency superintendent Rob Farmer.

The plane was owned by computer technology company CSG.

Bolle was flying five CSG computer technicians to a remote community 310 miles (500 kilometers) east of Darwin where they were going to conduct maintenance work on the school, health clinic and police networks.

CSG managing director Denis Mackenzie told the Sydney Morning Herald that Bolle reported a loss of power in one of the engines. He realized he could not make it back to the airport and decided to land on the beach.

Emergency teams were working to remove the partly submerged plane from the water before the turn of the tide.

The incident is being investigated by the Air Transport Safety Bureau.

The emergency landing recalled last month's landing of an Airbus 320 in the icy Hudson River in New York. All 155 people on board that flight survived, and pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger has been hailed as a hero.

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