Float plane goes for icy dip

Port of Hood River workers were forced to wing it on Nov. 28 when an unoccupied float plane began to sink -- and they could not locate the owner.

"We had no clue who the pilot was," said Mike Doke, port marketing director.

The scramble began about 10 a.m. when heavy snowfall from a sudden storm weighted down the tail section of the 1968 Cessna while it was parked at the airplane dock on the south side of the Marina. The sudden accumulation of wet material quickly caused the rear two-thirds of the craft to submerge -- and hid the registration numbers.

Once port maintenance workers placed "boomers" around the plane to stop any oil or gas leakage, officials tried to determine who it belonged to before any further action was taken.

They quickly learned that the plane had been parked at the dock for several days without authorization. Doke said the situation was finally resolved when one of the three tenant pilots, John Chaney, arrived at the scene and revealed that the pilot/owner of the immersed plane was Kagel E. Smith of Vancouver, Wash., who was visiting his brother, Lane, in nearby Husum, Wash.

"The port was in a difficult position to try to figure out what to do next without incurring liability," said Doke.

Kagel Smith was then called at his brother's home about the plane's peril, and arrived at the dock about 11:30 a.m. Chaney, who happened to work for SDS Lumber Company in Bingen, Wash., then arranged for a barge and crane to arrive from across the river and by early afternoon the airplane had been pulled out of the water.

Doke said the port will probably not pursue trespassing charges for that incident, but wants to send a clear message to other pilots that landing at the Marina is prohibited without a written lease.

"We don't have a transitional dock for float planes and pilots need to make arrangements with us before they arrive," said Doke.

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