AVENTURA, Fla. – The crew of a decades-old cargo plane put the aircraft down in a lake in a Miami suburb Saturday after it developed engine trouble, avoiding high-rise buildings in the densely populated area, then were rescued from the floating fuselage.
The Miami Air Lease (search) plane — with the misspelled message "Eelect George W. Bush" running the length of the fuselage — had trouble with one of its two engines shortly after takeoff, said company office manager Alina Nodarse.
The pilots tried to return the Convair CV-340 (search) to the Opa-locka airport about seven miles away but couldn't make it and splashed down in Maule Lake (search), said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Chris White. The lake is surrounded by condominium towers.
"They landed there like that to avoid the buildings," Nodarse said after the rescued pilots checked in by phone.
Pilot Alejandro Bristol and co-pilot Dennis Villavicencio climbed onto the fuselage, and one of them walked the length of the plane before being rescued by a Sunny Isles Beach police boat.
The plane ended up several hundred yards from a marina and farther away from high-rises, floating with half the fuselage and the tips of the propellers rising above the water.
'The pilot did an outstanding job in avoiding any of the structures surrounding the area," said Miami-Dade fire rescue Lt. Eric Baum. "Just a little bit of difference ... and this would not have ended on a good note."
Nodarse said both pilots are experienced and have been with the 35-year-old, family-owned cargo carrier for many years. Nodarse said the family is Republican and the pro-Bush message was painted on shortly before the election.
Crews surrounded the plane with an inflatable dike to contain any leaking oil. Trapped air kept the plane afloat and emergency crews planned to add air bags for additional buoyancy.
Nodarse believed the plane was carrying a load of luggage to Nassau, Bahamas. Convair, which also built bombers, produced the CV-340 in the 1950s.