ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (970 WFLA) – St. Petersburg Police say they are assisting the FAA with the investigation of a plane crash that happened just after 2 p.m. by Albert Whitted Airport.
Police said the plane is a 1951 Cessna l19 "bird dog" owned by Advertising Air Force, which is based at the airport, is ditched in the waters of Tampa Bay at about 300 to 400 yards southeast of the Coast Guard base at Bayboro Harbor.
Police said the pilot was the only occupant of the plane and managed to evacuate from the cockpit after it entered the water and remained sitting on top of the plane until a rescue team from the coast guard arrived to pick him up. They said he was checked by paramedics and appears to be uninjured.
St. Pete Police said the pilot, Robert L. Gilchrist, 36, an employee of Advertising Air Force, told officers on the scene he had just picked up an advertising banner at the airport and was starting to climb when he began to experience engine failure and was forced to ditch the plane in to the water.
The plane is still submerged and preparations for recovery are ongoing, police said.
The FAA has been notified and will be the investigating agency, police said.
Photo Credit 970 WFLA/K. Norman