View Full Version : Fellow Pilots Tried To Help Doomed Aviator

355N Driver
2nd Jan 2004, 08:53
Fellow Pilots Tried To Help Doomed Aviator
When New Zealand pilot Kelvin Stark, 58, found himself alone above the Pacific Ocean last week, with fuel-flow problems in the new PAC 750XL single-engine skydiving plane he was ferrying to California, other pilots tried to help, the New Zealand Herald reported Monday. In the dark, overcast night, Stark reached out on 121.5 and found Capt. Steve Jacques, flying a United 767 from Honolulu to Denver, who talked with him for about three hours as Stark tried to troubleshoot the problem. "He had no co-pilot, but at a push of his microphone switch he was getting the support of many others," Jacques told the Herald.

Stark also heard from other cockpit crews who offered advice, and the Coast Guard responded with plans for a rescue operation, and coached him through the ditching procedures early in the morning. "He never seemed worried. There was no distress, he was upbeat and accepting the information," said Jacques. "He was not alone out there. A lot of people were trying to help." USCG Lt. Brust Roethler told the Herald that Stark faltered only once -- when an airline pilot asked if he had a message for his wife. "We then all realized this would not necessarily come off ... Mr. Stark choked up a little bit ... We all did," said Roethler. Stark made what appeared to be a gentle water landing about 310 miles southwest of Monterey, as the USCG C-130 flew nearby, but the fixed-gear airplane flipped over on its back. The Coast Guard crew dropped a liferaft, but Stark never emerged from the cockpit, and it was several hours before divers were able to reach the site. They were unable to retrieve the body, and the aircraft later sunk below the waves. A PAC spokesman told the Herald that the airplane probably didn't have any mechanical problem but just ran out of fuel. The NTSB is investigating.

My condolences to his family. I hope he can be found and returned to the family.

2nd Jan 2004, 09:59
How the hell would PAC know what happened?

Have they examined the retrieved wreckage?

Lu Zuckerman
2nd Jan 2004, 10:15
If the pilot ran out of fuel it can be said to be his fault for poor fuel management (Pilot error). However if it were a mechanical problem it could be said that it was the fault of the maintenance department and open them for legal action.

:E :E

2nd Jan 2004, 10:35
In my view they already have exposed themselves to possible legal action, with their stupid comment to the press.

In most cases it's a crime to run out of fuel and this poor man, who is unable to defend himself, has been accused of it.

Just hope the deceased relatives instigate legal action immediately.

Black Baron
2nd Jan 2004, 11:23
He uploaded 20 hours fuel for a 15 hour flight.
The engine was running at the time of ditching.
The news here stated that in conversation with the Herc, they established the fuel was either freezing in the pipes, or that the ferry tank had ruptured.

But maybe there is more accurate coverage of this sad loss in the U.A.E?

2nd Jan 2004, 12:00
Going back to the original headline, it is nice to see that in time of need Kelvin Stark could rely on fellow pilots like United Airlines Capt. Steve Jacques to get support and advice.

When reading about someone asking if he if he had a message for his wife, it makes me think that we all have a bond worth thinking about sometimes. I hope Kelvin Stark was comforted in his time of need.

Black Baron
2nd Jan 2004, 12:27
Well said aviator,

Best Wishes to all the aircrew that tried to help this poor fellow in his hour of need.

Condolences to his family, friends, and PAC.

2nd Jan 2004, 19:35
Good call aviator.

So, has anyone else seen an a/c about to be despatched on a long ferry flight siting in a large pool of fuel? Or is this normal?

Not observed by me in this case, but food for thought.

Absent friends.

Flying Bagel
2nd Jan 2004, 19:45
What a sad story, I'd be in a bad state now being one of the pilots who talked to him during his final moments.

Condolences to his family.

Red Wine
2nd Jan 2004, 20:59
S355 Driver and Aviator.....

What a sad, but yet heartwarming storey....

We are but pilots, and if we can extend out our arms to each other when the chips are down, then what a great profession we are in.

Yet another loss.............

[Can someone bring this to the attention of United"s Chief Pilot.....?]

3rd Jan 2004, 00:37
Sounds reminiscent of the Air NZ DC10 crew that did the same thing for another ferry pilot across the Pacific some years ago, but without the fairytale ending.

May he rest in peace.

Lu Zuckerman
3rd Jan 2004, 03:39
On December 26, 2003, at 0910 Pacific standard time, a Pacific Aerospace Corporation 750XL, New Zealand registry ZK-UAC, ditched in the Pacific ocean in
international waters about 300 miles southwest of Monterey, California, near coordinates 35 degrees 28 minutes north by 118 degrees 10 minutes west.

The ditching was precipitated by a loss of engine power following a report by the pilot of a problem transferring fuel. The airplane was owned and operated by Utility Aircraft Corporation, Woodland, California, under the pertinent provisions of the New Zealand Civil Aviation Regulations.

The airplane sank and is presumed to be destroyed. The New Zealand Airline Transport licensed pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries and was not recovered. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an IFR flight plan was filed. The ferry flight departed Hilo, Hawaii, at an undetermined time en route to Oakland, California.

According to information provided by the US Federal Aviation Administration Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center, about 0545 the pilot reported that he was having a fuel transfer problem (he was not specific about the nature of the problem), and estimated that he had 2 hours of available fuel left with 4 hours of flight time remaining to reach the California coast.

A US Coast Guard C-130 was dispatched at 0615 and joined up with the aircraft. After the aircraft ditched, the pilot was not observed exiting the partially submerged airplane. Para rescue divers were put into the water and they reportedly observed that the pilot was deceased
and still strapped into his seat in the submerged cockpit.

Due to the hazardous nature of the sea state, the divers could not recover the pilot's body.

The accident is under the jurisdiction of and is being investigated by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. Further information can be obtained from:

Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
PO Box 31 441
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Telephone 64 4 569 2024
Web Site: www.caa.govt.nz
Page 1
Prepared From Official Records of the NTSB By:
Air Data Research

:sad: :sad:

Lou Scannon
3rd Jan 2004, 03:52
...and perhaps a vote of thanks from all us pilots for the efforts of the US Coast Guard and their para-rescue people.

3rd Jan 2004, 04:39
Maxrev The NZ DC10 Crew located the aircraft you refer to using a combination of many skills. The Captain, as I recall, was a skilled navigator and tenaciously stuck to attempt after attempt to find the lost airman over the pacific. The story did, indeed have a fairy tale ending, and resulted in the aircraft being guided to a safe landing with only fumes in the tanks.
The name Capt. Vette sticks in my memory as the man responsible. Perhaps someone can confirm.

Reading the story of Kelvin Stark brought a large lump to my throat ....so near and yet so far. He had lots of help from everybody, and I am sure that his final hours were filled with hope and confidence. RIP Kelvin

Hot Rod
3rd Jan 2004, 05:07
Captain Gordon Vette was the man on NZ DC10 in 1978. Full story about this event in Stanley Stewart´s book "Emergency, Crisis on the flight deck".
There is also a movie about this, "Mercy Mission: The resque of flight 771".
Captain Vette later wrote "Impact Erebus" (published 1983) after an NZ DC10 hit Mount Erebus in 1979.
The Flight Engineer on the 1978 flight, Gordon Brooks, was killed in the NZ Erebus crash.

Jim Morehead
4th Jan 2004, 03:32
In Kevin's situation,it sounds like the Coast Guard got there fairly fast. Was it written or is it known that they were there to watch him go down? I may have missed it.

Did any of the enroute airplanes try to follow the airplane or stay with him for 10-15 minutes? Most airplanes have a little extra to play with for "contingencies".

I remember a situation some 15 years when I was a 727 CAP headed to JAX. The center called and asked if I would help them for a few minutes. I said "sure, what do you need?" They said they had a single engine airplane below us at some Georgia airport with an engine failure/fire. They wanted to know if I could follow the airplane and advise if it made it to the airport. The Highway Patrol/Police were enroute to wherever it went down.

I would have been about 10,000 descending into JAX and I descended to 3,000 which was the MEA as I had a planeload of people on board. I slowed,put out flaps, and wacthed them as they made it to the airport. I could see 3 people running from the airplane and I reported that to the center. They all made it and I am not sure if the airplane burned or what.

I had to tell the passengers that we would be a little late doing circles and that we were involved in attempting to watch where the light airplane went if it didn't reach the airport it could be a loss of life. They understood and I felt good about helping them. I suppose I owe United for a little fuel!