A single-engine amphibious airplane made an emergency landing on the Indian River Lagoon Saturday after it began to lose engine power and could not make it to the nearest airfield.
Pilot Jack Ardoyno and passenger Leonard Fleming were uninjured and the Seawind experimental aircraft sustained no apparent damage in the 4 p.m. water landing. Local authorities initially responded to reports the airplane had crashed.
Ardoyno, of Hayward, Wisc., said the aircraft had just left Vero Beach Municipal Airport and was at 1,700 feet and climbing over Sebastian when it started to experience engine trouble. Ardoyno, an instructor on that model of aircraft, recognized an oil pressure problem that robs the engine of power and tried to limp the aircraft over the water to Sebastian Municipal Airport.
Ardoyno said it became apparent he wasn’t going to clear trees on the western shore of the Indian River Lagoon, so he set the plane, which can operate on both land and water, down on the water.
He and Fleming, a Port Orchard, Wash., man who had just purchased the plane, were surrounded by a flotilla of boats offering help, including marine units from the Sheriff’s Office and Indian River County Fire Rescue. But they restarted the engine and water taxied the plane to a near-vacant parking lot on the southwest side of Sebastian Inlet State Park.
The men almost succeeded in reaching the roadway before the plane’s nose wheel collapsed in soft sand.
The men said they planned to remove the aircraft’s wings and trailer it to an airport.
Ardoyno and Fleming originally planned to fly from Vero Beach to Bowling Green, Ohio, for a fuel stop on the way to Washington state.