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Cargo plane lands in lake south of Aventura


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wow... what a close call



'Amazing' pilots land in urban lake

When the engine of a cargo plane failed, the pilots were forced to make an emergency landing in an unlikely place -- a lake near the Aventura Mall, one of the most dense urban regions of Miami-Dade.


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A cargo plane safely avoided rows of high-rise condos, power lines and stunned observers aboard docked boats before skidding to an emergency landing Saturday morning just south of the Aventura Mall -- in a lake.

The pilots escaped unharmed and dry as they were plucked by rescuers from atop the fuselage.

They were immediately lauded for safely downing the white cargo plane -- emblazoned with a red Bush campaign slogan -- in one of the most dense urban regions of Miami-Dade County.

''I don't consider myself a hero,'' said pilot Alejandro Bristol, calmly talking to reporters lakeside. ``It's part of the job.''

The old Convair 340, owned by Miami Air Lease, had just taken off from Opa-locka Airport and was headed toward the Bahamas when one of its two propeller engines malfunctioned.

This is what the pilots, rescuers, police and witnesses said happened:

It was expected to be a routine flight to Nassau, one the pilots do several times a week. Copilot Dennys Villavicencio enjoyed a Croissan'wich and black coffee from Burger King before boarding the plane, which was carrying electronics and toys in its hold.

Everything seemed routine as the 49-year-old aircraft lifted off from Opa-locka Airport at 8 a.m.

Less than an hour later, as the plane cruised about 3,000 feet about four miles off-shore, a vibration from the left wing rumbled through the plane.

The engine was failing. It shut off.

But the propeller kept spinning, known in pilot jargon as ``windmilling.''

That creates drag on the plane, making it difficult to control with only one engine. The plane turned around toward the coastline.

But they knew they couldn't make it back to Opa-locka.

''We kept our calm,'' Bristol said.

Said Villavicencio: ``We were worried about hitting houses.''

So they decided to land the plane in Maule Lake in North Miami Beach, once a rock quarry mined by the family of former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferr

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The saga continues...


Snag delays plans to raise downed cargo plane near Aventura Mall

By Ihosvani Rodriguez

Miami Bureau

Posted December 7 2004

A large cargo airplane will remain in the middle of Maule Lake near the Aventura Mall as salvage workers figure out a different way to remove the fallen behemoth.

The Convair 340-70 aircraft, whose pilot made an emergency landing on Saturday, was moments from being removed late Monday when the owner of a nearby private dock protested, said Steve Smalley, president of salvage company Air & Sea Crash Recovery Inc.

"We had it floating and were ready to drag that thing out of there," said Smalley. "Then we hit this snag that's going to make this complicated task even more complicated and even more expensive."

Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials said they did not detect any new fuel leak after containing a 500-foot circular oil slick a day earlier.

Smalley said his workers spent much of Monday attaching floating devices to the 17-ton plane that remained partly submerged in the 14-foot deep lake near the 17800 block of Biscayne Boulevard.

The plane was to be tugged onto a nearby dock, pulled out with a crane and dismantled. The owner of the dock, however, became concerned about liability issues and damage to the dock, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss.

The dock owner could not be reached for comment.

Smalley said he was now trying to find a barge to take the plane to a different dock.

On Monday, with its tail up in the air and its nose in the murky ground, the plane drew bemused onlookers.

Reinald Sorensby watched the salvage work from nearby Tuna's Waterfront Grille.

"It doesn't even look real," he said. "Could you imagine watching it crash? That must've been quite the sight."

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