In the early morning hours of Oct. 17th, 1956, just over halfway from Honolulu to San Francisco, Captain Richard Ogg knew his flight was not going to make its destination. The big Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser, Clipper Sovereign of the Skies, had a runaway prop howling on its port outside engine, and the opposite engine on the starboard wing was losing power. The airspeed was down to 140 miles per hour, and the plane was losing altitude, settling towards the waiting Pacific
Fortunately, their position was near the USCGC Ponchartrain, the US Coast Guard cutter on ocean guard duty. The ship’s commander, Capt William Earle, made preparations for an ocean rescue mission, while the plane orbited the ship, burning off fuel and waiting for daylight.
Captain Ogg was concerned that bringing the aircraft down on the water would cause the tail to break off, and he was right, despite the skill he displayed in doing so. As a precaution, he had all aboard move to the front of the aircraft before ditching.
In the event, there were only some minor injuries, and a few of the rescued passengers had to pulled from the water. Everyone was soon safe and sound aboard the Ponchartrain. It was a textbook case of open ocean aircraft rescue, with praise (and international attention) for the great professionalism showed by the Pan Am and Coast Guard crews alike.
* " 'All Saved!' The Story of a Rescue at Sea" appeared in the Summer 1997, Clipper Newsletter, published by the Pan Am Historical Foundation.