- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Last week, Michael Holman landed his plane on a deserted part of the Koyuktolik Bay shore, hopingto do a little beachcombing.

Instead, the 45-year-old pilot endured a six-day test of his survival skills in Alaska’s wilderness when the incoming tide destroyed his plane, stranding him at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

He was found unhurt Sunday beside a campfire that ultimately clued in rescuers on his location. Searchers had been scanning the shorelines for the Palmer resident since Nov. 22 when he failed to arrive in Seldovia, about 140 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Flanked by his wife, Nicki, and two children, Mr. Holman recounted his ordeal moments after arriving by rescue helicopter to Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage.

“I’ve got visions of cheeseburgers,” he said.

Mr. Holman said he spent the first three days on the beach waiting for a rescue plane. He had salvaged food, a tent, a gun and other supplies from his blue and white Maule ML-7 before the water swallowed it. One item he forgot, though, was his emergency locator beacon.

Mr. Holman said his main priority was keeping warm and dry, while thoughts and worries of his family passed the time. After three days of waiting, he decided that nobody was going to find him where he was and so moved on. He left his tent and most of his supplies, carrying just two cans of sardines with him for food.

“I knew I was out of the search area,” he said. “In three days of sitting on the beach, I hadn’t seen a single airplane, not a single boat. … I figured that would be the best alternative, to try and walk out.”

He trekked across rough terrain for 17 hours Nov. 26, stopping in the darkness when he came upon an empty lodge, where he found water, a bag of rice and a hand-held radio.

The Civil Air Patrol and others battled winds, snow, rain and fog that decreased visibility, focusing on a 4,000-square-mile area over the Kenai Peninsula. A Coast Guard crew picked up Mr. Holman’s message the next day and was able to spot him with the help of a bonfire he burned.

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