Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pilot, Plane and GPSMAP 295 Survive Dive Through Alaskan Ice

He might have been born in Louisiana and raised in Georgia, but Dave Leonard heard his calling coming from far-off Alaska. Growing up, Dave was an avid reader of Jack London books and was intrigued by stories of the North Country and the Yukon. As he grew older, he knew that Alaska was where he was meant to be, and he wrote to several guiding businesses asking if he could come work for them. Ultimately, three days after graduating from high school, he moved there for good.

He worked his way up through the ranks in Alaska, becoming a master guide, a pilot and owner of Mountain Monarchs, a guiding service specializing in big game hunts. It’s not unusual for Dave’s clients to go home with prize grizzly bears, black bears, brown bears, moose, wolves and dall sheep.

While Alaskan laws are very strict about the use of electronic devices during hunting, Dave is able to keep a Garmin eTrex handy for navigational purposes. But even Dave’s 30 years of extensive experience as a master guide and commercial pilot in the far reaches of Alaska couldn’t prepare him for the unexpected turn of events he faced on May 9, 2003.

Here is his story:
I have owned a good number of Garmin products, including the GPS 55, GPS 95, GPS 195 and GPS 295 most recently. I also own several of the Garmin eTrex handhelds. I am a guide in the remote Northwest Arctic of Alaska. We get every kind of weather you can imagine. Occasionally good, but mostly bad. I have come to – daily – trust my life to your products, as they are all reliable, and serve me well. Recently I encountered some bad luck. There was also some good luck though, because I am very lucky to be alive. I had landed on the sea ice and dropped off a passenger in front of Kotzebue, which is where I live part of my year. I was taxiing on skis over to where I could unload my cargo from my super cub when I suddenly broke through the ice, which is unheard of in mid-May in this area. I went through so quickly that if I’d had my seat belt on, I’d have not been able to get out. The ice had me pinned in, as it was jammed against my door. I was in water up to my waist instantly. I had to kick the door open to get out. It took several tries to break through the ice in front of my wing with my shoulder so I could breathe. A local Eskimo threw me a line and – with help from two others – pulled me to more solid ice. The water temperature from the sea would have been around 28 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. I was really cold but really lucky. With help from many people of the Kotzebue community, we actually saved my plane, as well. I am now starting the long, tedious and expensive process of rebuilding it. We had to flip it upside down and hand-pull it to shore. It took 18 strong backs to accomplish this chore. When I was finally able to turn my master switch off, the Garmin 295 was still alive. Thank you for manufacturing the very best navigational products in the industry. I am grateful to so many people – too many to list here – who were willing to not only save my plane, but to risk their lives in doing so. The spirit of Alaska is awesome and it lives on! In Alaska, we depend on our friends in our everyday lives as much as we depend on Garmin navigational products to get us home safely.

Note: In case you were curious, Dave was in full compliance with FAA guidelines and there was nothing out of the ordinary about his sea ice landing, a standard occurrence in Alaska. What was out of the ordinary, however, were the unseasonably warm temperatures resulting in thinner-than-usual ice. In this particular scenario, the GPSMAP 295 may not have saved Dave’s life, but one thing is clear — Dave depends on his Garmin products every day. Besides providing accurate navigation guidance, Garmin units are built to withstand the toughest elements, situations and unexpected surprises. Today, Dave is getting back to business conducting guided adventures in Alaska, New Zealand and Australia. Ultimately, he replaced his original unit with another GPSMAP 295, which he maintains is the finest and most user-friendly piece of navigational equipment he’s ever owned. And thanks to superb technology, Garmin was able to salvage the information saved in Dave’s water-damaged original unit and reload the information onto his new GPSMAP 295. Above all, Dave is most thankful for what he calls his "good karma," and is happy his life was spared, as well as his plane.