PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A pilot is sharing his dramatic story after a malfunction caused him to land his plane on the Kiski River, then swim to shore.
Pete Morchied loves to build them and fly them. And it wasn’t long after Pete Morchied took his Citabria plane into the clear skies Sunday afternoon before he realized he had a problem.
“It sputtered and then it quit,” he said.
Despite both tanks being full, Pete says there’s no doubt what the problem was.
“It seems like fuel starvation,” said Morchied.
And he knew he was coming down.
“My options were to land it on 286 or go for the river,” he said.
He opted for the river and cleared a tree ahead of him.
“And then to my surprise, there were these three big pillars,” he said. “I’m going straight ahead and had to turn west with the river and controlled landing.”
And understatement to say the least. Morchied hit the water at a perfect landing altitude, nose high, tail, wheel and main gear heading for water.
He then got out of the plane in waist-deep water and swam across the river with his radio and headphones on one of the tires that broke off, then called his wife and waited for firefighters.
“I’m of the persuasion nobody gets out alive and nobody knows what time they are leaving, so you live your life accordingly,” he said.
And it’s not the first time Morchied has made an unplanned landing and walked away.
“It’s the third, I think maybe fourth,” he said.
But every time he returns to the air and will again for the love of flying.
“God has been with me for 35 years, found me a soft place to land,” he said. “It’s not my time. There’s a purpose, everybody has a purpose in life.”