Small plane crashes in Bay; pilot survives

ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

A small plane crashed into the water at Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg just after 2 p.m. Sunday.

The pilot, 36-year-old Robert Gilchrist, managed to get out of the cockpit unharmed after it entered the water.

He remained sitting on top of the plane until some local fisherman came by to help; the Coast Guard arrived on scene as well.

Gilchrist was the only one on board the plane. Witnesses say they heard the engine sputter and dive into the water.

The exact location of the crash was about 300 to 400 yards southeast of the Coast Guard Base at Bayboro Harbor.

The pilot told officers he had just picked up an advertising banner at the airport and was starting to climb when he started having engine failure and was forced to ditch the plane into the water.

The plane, a 1951 Cessna L19 “Bird Dog,” is owned by Advertising Air Force.

St. Pete police and the FAA are now investigating.