August 28, 2018 – USS Mason (DDG 87) took part in the transport of passengers from a damaged seaplane that was adrift at sea in the Western Atlantic Ocean Aug. 25.
Mason was conducting operations in the Atlantic with Carrier Strike Group 12, when the U.S. Navy diverted the ship to rendezvous with the container ship M/V Polar Peru to transport the rescued passengers back to the United States.
“It was a great team effort to safely rescue the seaplane crew,” said Cmdr. Stephen Aldridge, Mason’s commanding officer. “Those who go to sea have a special bond to help fellow mariners in distress. From the team ashore, to the U.S. Coast Guard, to the merchant ship in the area, the ‘destroyermen’ and naval aviators aboard Mason, it was great to see the collaboration that resulted in locating, rescuing, and returning the stranded passengers ashore.”
The seaplane had departed Elizabeth City, North Carolina, early Saturday morning when it was forced to make an emergency landing after striking an object during takeoff, which damaged the aircraft’s front node. The plane landed approximately 460 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Watchstanders at the Coast Guard’s 5th District received notification of the distressed plane by the International Emergency Response Coordination Center. An HC-130 Hercules aircraft was launched from Air Station Elizabeth City to monitor the situation while the Coast Guard used the Automated Mutual Assistance Rescue System to contact the Polar Peru, which was transiting nearby. The Polar Peru recovered the passengers until the Mason could arrive on scene.
Mason launched two rigid-hull inflatable boats and picked up the five passengers, which included the seaplane’s flight crew and an oceanography researcher. Once aboard, the passengers were able to contact their families.
“There was an excitement on the deck plates for the opportunity to help fellow Americans in trouble at sea,” said Command Master Chief Maurice Purley. “It was a reminder to the crew of Mason why we love being in the U.S. Navy.”
“Although not a frequently-executed mission, search and rescue is a mission that Navy destroyers train for,” added Aldridge. “In fact, just days ago, Mason conducted integrated rescue training with our small boats and helicopters to practice rescuing survivors from the sea and into the helicopter.”
Additional search and rescue mission aircraft aboard Mason include an embarked MH-60R helicopter of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46, based out of Naval Station Mayport, Florida.