November 18th 2020

The officers and crew of the HORIZON RELIANCE rescued two pilots who had been forced to land their plane on the ocean and debark to a life raft about a thousand nautical miles from Honolulu.

The ship received the alert by satellite call from Coast Guard RCC Honolulu at 1835 on Nov. 6, and quickly began steaming towards position 80 nautical miles to the southwest.

Aboard the HORIZON RELIANCE were MM&P members Captain Mark Tuck, Chief Mate Steve Itson, Second Mate Joseph Comerford II and Third Mate William Laprade.

When HORIZON RELIANCE arrived at 2230, a Marshall-Islands flagged crude oil tanker, MT ARIEL, was on scene.

The tanker crew advised HORIZON RELIANCE to stay clear, saying it was in the midst of conducting the rescue operation, but multiple rescue attempts by the tanker were unsuccessful and the operation was suspended until daylight.

At 0820 the next day, the ARIEL resumed the rescue attempt but was again unsuccessful.

Pilot Nathaniel Johansson and Copilot Kelly Michaels told Captain Tuck later in a debriefing in the master’s office aboard HORIZON RELIANCE that they had been flying from Los Angeles to Australia to deliver the new turboprop when it lost engine power at an altitude of 28,000 feet.

Johansson was unable to re-start the engine and decided to land on the ocean. Luckily neither he nor his copilot were injured in the landing.

Johansson told the master of the HORIZON RELIANCE that the MT ARIEL had made several attempts to pass a line to the raft, but that he and Michaels were unable to hold on to the line as the vessel was moving too fast, and suffered blisters and rope burns in the attempt.

As they were exhausted and frightened, they told the tanker to stop rescue attempts until first light.

In the morning, the HORIZON RELIANCE stepped in, informing MT ARIEL that it had steam turbine propulsion which would give it more control of speed.

The officers aboard the US-flag ship suggested that ARIEL remain near the raft so as to guide HORIZON RELIANCE to the location, and move off once the crew of the containership had visual sighting.

“The HORIZON RELIANCE sighted the life raft at 0905,” the captain said, and by 1048, the downed pilots were on board and the vessel was proceeding to Honolulu.

“Thank you for all that you have done for the Coast Guard and for mariners in need,” USCG Command Duty Officer Lt. Diane French of JRCC Honolulu told the captain and crew of the HORIZON RELIANCE in a follow-up message.

She thanked the master for insights to “help evaluate our strategies… and educate ourselves and our coworkers on how to improve our [search and rescue] operations in the future.”