The pilot of a downed Mooney M20 was lucky his bad day was met by a troop of scouts who lived up to their motto to always be prepared. Shortly after takeoff engine trouble required the pilot to ditch in the nearby Congaree River near Columbia, S.C.
While the scouts were paddling on their annual Christmas canoe trip, they noticed a plane flying low above the trees. As they continued their trek down the river they came across what was first believed to be a model boat floating on the water, but quickly realized it was the tail of a plane sunk just below the surface. The also found a cold and wet pilot shouting for help from the river bank.
The plane was a Mooney M20, a four seat, piston engine propellor plane and the pilot was the only occupant aboard. The M20 has been popular since the 1950's for its sleek, low drag design and at one time was the fastest single-engine piston airplane on the market. Mooney even partnered with Porsche to create a high performance aviation powerplant.
The Congaree river flows for almost 50 miles south of Columbia and is mainly a lowland swamp and surrounded partially by a protected state recreational area. With the temperatures less that 50º F and even colder water soaking his clothes the pilot was at serious risk of hypothermia while stranded in the remote and uninhabited region of South Carolina.
The scouts immediately paddled to the victim and wrapped him in warm, dry blankets while a fire was struck to keep him warm. They alerted authorities providing exact GPS coordinates and waited while help arrived.
Once EMS was on the scene the scouts were again put to work to transport the stranded pilot to the opposite side of the river via canoe where an ambulance was waiting. The pilot, who had just departed from an airfield in the Columbia area was taken to the hospital to be checked out and was released soon after with no threatening injuries.
Kudos to Troop 597 who put their training into real world, life saving practice and save Christmas for a down-and-out pilot.
Images courtesy Boy Scout Troop 597, Dacula, Georgia