Mokulele Airlines, the FAA and the Hawaii legislature came together recently to honor two pilots – Capt. Justin Constantino and First Officer Jeremy Delia – who helped rescue two pilots from a downed plane eight miles off the coast of Lāna‘i on Feb. 27. The two pilots were recognized at a special ceremony outside the Mokulele Terminal at Honolulu International Airport.
Constantino and Delia’s quick and life-saving decisions led to the rescue of a flight instructor and student pilot who had ditched their plane in the Pacific Ocean. Mokulele Airlines flight 715 had just departed Lāna‘i for Honolulu when the crew spotted the distressed aircraft going down shortly after takeoff from the Lāna‘i Airport.
The Mokulele airplane diverted from its flight plan and proceeded to the last known coordinates of the distressed aircraft. The crew then enlisted the help of the passengers to keep multiple eyes on the two crewmen who were floating in the Pacific until airlifted out by a Coast Guard helicopter. The pilots were in the ocean for nearly two hours before help arrived.
“Very rarely do circumstances like this have happy endings,” said Stan Little, chairman and CEO of Southern Airways Corporation. “Recognizing our crew for their swift actions and presenting each of them a Rolex provided by an anonymous passenger on the flight is something I will never forget.”
That anonymous business executive was on his honeymoon leaving The Four Seasons Resort when he and his wife were enlisted to keep watch on the distressed pilots. As a token of his appreciation for taking place in the life-saving event, he insisted on recognizing the heroism of the Mokulele crew by presenting each of them with the rare Rolex Aviator wristwatch. The presentation was a surprise to the pilots.
The FAA issued a special proclamation in honor of the Mokulele pilots:
“Your outstanding recent actions upheld the highest standards of airmanship and reflect the greatest credit upon yourself, Mokulele Airlines, and the Hawaii aviation community. During the February 2021 ditching off Lanai, your noteworthy professionalism and situational awareness enabled you to review detailed water ditching procedures and calm the distressed pilot by radio. As nightfall approached, you thereafter served as primary airborne SAR liaison through Honolulu control facility until being relieved by a Kamaka Caravan. Your on-the-spot initiative was pivotal in averting a potential tragedy. Accordingly, the Honolulu Combined Safety Assurance Office & Flight Standards District Office, on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration, offer their gratitude and take great pleasure in presenting this commendation.”
“When we saw the airplane going down, our instincts kicked in, and we were fully-committed to saving lives,” said Mokulele Capt. Justin Constantino. “It was a tragedy that unfolded right before our eyes, and we knew we had to remain vigilant until the Coast Guard arrived. Thankfully for all involved, the two pilots were saved, and catastrophe was averted. We are forever grateful that we could help bring these people safely back to shore. This calamity had a very happy ending.”