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Air Traffic Controller's Quick Action Leads to Ocean Rescue - (7/7/2001)

MIAMI -- The swift action of air traffic controller Chuck Jones of the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center led to the rescue of two men Friday night after their Cessna Caravan crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Cessna transmitted a mayday on Jones’s frequency shortly after departing Freeport, Bahamas. Jones identified the aircraft on radar and then vectored another aircraft on his frequency, Gulf Flight 9147, to the position of the Cessna in distress. The Gulf Flight pilot was able to see the troubled plane and circled overhead as the Cessna went down in the water, about 30 miles east of Fort Lauderdale.

Jones, a 10 1/2-year veteran controller at Miami Center, broadcast on the emergency frequency and was able to direct a nearby Coast Guard jet to the position marked by the circling Gulf Flight. The plane dropped a life raft to the sinking Cessna passengers and a Coast Guard helicopter followed to complete the rescue. According to the Coast Guard, it took only three minutes to reach the crash site.

“Locating an aircraft in the ocean is worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr said. “If Chuck had not kept the Gulf Flight marking the location of the downed airplane, the Coast Guard might not have found the men in time.

“This is the kind of teamwork between government agencies that allows the United States to claim the title of world’s safest skies.”

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