A pilot was forced to ditch his plane into the waters of the Tampa Bay near Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, after his engine failed during takeoff Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Around 2 p.m., a Cessna L19 "Bird Dog" owned by Advertising Air Force, which is based at the airport, left the runway. Pilot Robert L. Gilchrist, 36, an employee, was the only person in the plane.
Gilchrist told authorities he'd just picked up an advertising banner from the airport and began his ascent, St. Petersburg police said. He said the engine failed and he was forced to ditch the plane into the bay, landing about 300 yards from the U.S. Coast Guard base at Bayboro Harbor.
The plane splashed into the water and Gilchrist climbed out of the cockpit and sat atop the plane until a rescue team arrived.
The Coast Guard picked up the man and he was checked by paramedics. Authorities said the man suffered only scratches and bruises but was otherwise fine.
The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating the accident.