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Coasties fish downed pilot from the Gulf of Mexico

The Coast Guard rescued a pilot after his small, single-engine plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.

An MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans hoisted Robert Hodges, 65, out of the water a little more than an hour after the crash about eight miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana, and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center.

“The last word we had was that he was in stable condition,” said Coast Guard spokesman Public Affairs Specialist 3rd Class John Michelli on Monday.

The rescue operation began after watchstanders at the 8th Coast Guard District in New Orleans received a distress alert from an emergency locator transmitter at 11:46 a.m. Sunday.

The warning echoed a notification received from the Houston Air Route Traffic Control that a Southwest Airlines flight had relayed a mayday call from an unknown aircraft, plus three international air distress frequency pings from helicopters near the transmitter’s location, officials told Navy Times.

Along with the Dolphin helicopter, New Orleans watchstanders scrambled an HC-144 Ocean Sentry surveillance plane from Alabama’s Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile and launched a 45-foot response boat-medium from Coast Guard Station Venice in Louisiana.

At 1:04 p.m. Sunday, the helicopter crew spotted a man in the waves wearing a life jacket. He’s believed to have been the only person on board the aircraft.

“This is a great example of how being prepared can help the Coast Guard locate and rescue you if you need assistance,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Ward, an aircraft commander at Air Station New Orleans, in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.

“Wearing a life jacket and having an emergency locator device on board, including an emergency position indicating radio beacon on board a vessel, greatly increases your chances of survival and being rescued.”

Coast Guard officials said that Hodges was flying a Cirrus SR-22 single-engine aircraft with tail number N194CP.

Federal Aviation Administration records indicate that the plane is registered to the Aircraft Guaranty Corp. in Onalaska, Texas, a trust that allows foreign pilots and some publicly traded companies to operate aircraft in the United States.

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