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Heidi Porch

Safety, Motivation, Inspiration


Everything seemed like it was in slow motion. The sea was a greenish-gray, sickly color. My first thought was 'My God, I'm drowning!'

Heidi Porch realized a pilot's worst nightmare—an engine that quits. To make matters worse, she was 540 miles from land with only water in sight. The wheels of the fixed-gear Cessna 182 bounced off the surface, pitched forward onto the nose wheel, and then flipped onto its back. It took a seemingly interminable effort to get the life raft inflated and untangled from the sinking aircraft. After several attempts, Heidi finally got into the raft, only to find a lanyard was still pinning the raft to the rudder. With the aircraft sinking, she cut the lanyard, narrowly avoiding the raft being pulled under. Soaking wet and cold, she spent over nine hours through the night in a tiny life raft in 10-foot seas hoping to be rescued. She was finally discovered by a Soviet refrigeration vessel—this was during the Cold War! This distressing episode did not discourage Heidi from flying again nor deterred her from achieving her goal of becoming an airline captain. 

Few have experienced such a life-threatening situation. Through her ordeal, she learned how to deal with an in-flight emergency, think quickly, devise survival strategies, and how to tough it out.

Heidi's awe-inspiring story is not one you will soon forget. She shares valuable lessons for pilots. You will learn what it is really like to contemplate and survive an ocean ditching.


A Little About Heidi Porch

As a girl, Heidi enjoyed flying in her dad's Cessna 170. By the age of six, she informed her parents that she would become an airline pilot. At that time, females were not given the opportunity to fly for major airlines. At age sixteen, her first aviation job was as a ‘line boy’ at a glider port in California. Obtaining her private and commercial glider ratings allowed her to give glider rides for hire. She continued on to get her Private Pilot License, Commercial, Multi-engine, and ATP ratings. At a glider port, she accrued valuable time in taildragger aircraft as a tow pilot. When Transair moved to her local Nut Tree Airport, she started flying with them, ferrying new aircraft from the Cessna factories in Kansas, to the West Coast, and then on to Australia, New Zealand, and throughout the Pacific. Heidi flew 65 over-the-ocean legs of ferry flights.

In 1984, on one of these crossings, when the engine quit, she was forced to ditch the fixed-gear Cessna 182 in the Pacific Ocean, 540 miles NNE from her intended destination of Honolulu.

Heidi went on to fly for Pioneer Airline in Denver, flying Metroliners. In 1985,  she was hired by Republic Airlines in Minneapolis. She experienced two airline mergers; one with Northwest Airlines and another with Delta Air Lines. That’s a lot of uniform changes!

In her 37-year career of airline flying, she's qualified in the DC-9, Airbus 320 and 330, and the iconic Boeing 747. Heidi also spent 13 years as an instructor in the training department, and held the position of Fleet Training Captain for the DC-9 fleet. Currently, she pilots a privately owned Gulfstream VII-500.


" Many people have come to us to say how amazing Heidi was not only as a storyteller, but as a survivor."  Sarah Olsen, Vacaville Museum Executive Director​

What They Say About Heidi's Presentation

Amazing story ● Heidi was awesome. ● Fascinating! ● That was the best ditching story I've heard for a while. What struck me the most was her inherent good judgment, making one good decision after another, and of course, her incredibly good luck. ● Wow! Heidi's story is unbelievable. This is a true heroic ditching story. ● Five stars, riveting content. ● She got saved by the Russians. That's so amazing. What a story. ● Incredible story from Heidi. ● Totally fascinating. Amazing lady. ● Has Heidi written a book about this experience? Incredible story! Would also make a great documentary or movie. Another plane crash/lost at sea story that I was surprised I'd never heard about. ● Heidi is my new favorite person. She's a riot. ● Brilliant. I'm a big guy, but I almost cried listening to her story. ● Great. Heidi’s story was riveting! ● Heidi really impressed me. She is one sharp cookie. ● Awesome story and great information. Thanks! ● Heidi is a great storyteller with a fantastic smile. ● I would love to hear more about the lady's ditch! That's a crazy story! It should be a movie! ● She tells that story really well. Nice job. I love happy endings. ● Brilliant story. I think I would have enjoyed flying with Heidi. ● Heidi was a fantastic “EXTENDED” learning experience through HER tough ordeal. Quite the lady I’ll say. ● Heidi’s story is amazing. I would love to hear her tell the “full” story. ● That lady is such a badass...really impressed by how she handled the emergency and subsequent ditching. ● Did Heidi write a book about her experience? I'd love to read it if she did! ● Great to see a survivor that knows what was going on. Lady's candor regarding her personal reactions was great. ● Absolutely riveting. Good job! ● WOW, she is an awesome lady. ● Amazing story. I congratulate Heidi on her cool headedness and logical thinking, especially under her circumstances. ● Lady's story was amazing. So glad she survived to tell. ● Way to go Heidi! What a story! ● I hope I could make 10% of the good decisions that she made. What an amazing response to a very stressful event.

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