A pilot has been hailed as a hero for safely ditching his aircraft into the sea off Australia and saving the lives of all on board.

The medical aircraft, which was transporting a patient and five others from Samoa to Melbourne, began to run out of fuel as it approached Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific off the east coast of Australia, on Wednesday night.

Captain Dominic James, a former nominee for "bachelor of the year" in an Australian magazine, was praised for his "amazing" skill at bringing the plane down in the dark and saving the lives of his passengers.

In an accident that bore similarities to the Hudson River plane crash in New York in January, Captain James decided to make a controlled landing onto the sea off the island, and landed the Westwind jet safely on the water.

The aircraft sank within minutes, but the patient, her husband, two medical crew and the two pilots escaped safely. The six people clung to each other, treading water under the moonlight for 90 minutes because only three had time to grab life jackets.

They were eventually rescued by boat and taken to the island where they were treated for shock, but remarkably none were injured.

The Pel-Air Aviation chairman John Sharp said that he was very proud of Captain James and the first officer.

"Their professionalism stood out on the day and made a substantial difference to the outcome," he said. "They executed what would have to be described as a perfect landing on water. The pilots ensured that the aircraft landed close to the coast, close to rescue."

Norfolk Island airport manager Glenn Robinson said that the passengers were shaken up by their ordeal.

"They were extremely lucky and believe me, they all know it," he told an Australian radio station. "Full credit to the pilot. It was just an amazing effort by him."

In January US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger safely ditched an Airbus 320 into the Hudson River in New York, saving all 155 passengers and crew on board.

Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.