When Isabelle Chinuhuk asks her parents, Jenifer and Jamie, “How did I get here?” they can honestly answer “by float plane.”
The little girl was born Dec. 26 aboard a Pacific Airways deHavilland Beaver en route to Ketchikan. The Chinuhuks live in Metlakatla and didn’t expect the baby until mid-January.
Pacific Airways is a scheduled and on-demand charter operation based in Ketchikan. The company often assists in the transportation of patients from the clinic in Metlakatla, according to Michael Rhoads, president.
“We got the call late in the day on the 26th,” he recalls. “Our pilot met the ambulance at the dock in Metlakatla. Inside were two doctors and a very uncomfortable patient.”
The doctors and the mother-to-be were loaded on the aircraft. The father-to-be had to stay behind. He paced the dock, the Alaskan version of the classic Dad in the waiting room scene.
“It’s a short flight, usually no more than 14 minutes,” notes Rhoads. “But as they were on approach to Ketchikan, the doctor, who had been sitting in the front seat, climbed into the back to help with the delivery. Our pilot, Randy Sullivan, said he knew something was going on back there but wasn’t sure what until he heard a baby cry and one of the doctors say ‘it’s a girl!'”
Later in the day Jamie Chinuhuk was able to join his wife and child at the hospital. Sullivan also visited later, bringing his own 1-year-old daughter to meet the new family.
Mother, father, baby and pilot all are doing fine.
Rhoads notes he’s heard of a few close calls when a pregnant woman was on board, but this is the first time he’s heard of a mid-flight arrival.