Jet crashes are rare in Australia, but one happened last night at Norfolk Island and no one in the media noticed.

All six people on board a CareFlight medical evacuation jet have survived a ditching in the sea near the island.

The jet was a Pel-Air Aviation Westwind, flying from Apia in Western Samoa to Melbourne, via a refuelling stop at the often weather-affected Norfolk Island strip.

After making three missed approaches in deteriorating conditions and with fuel levels close to empty, captain Dominic James declared that a water landing would be made close to the island.

The small jet’s occupants, two pilots, the patient and accompanying spouse and two medical crew were retrieved by rescue boat and taken to the island’s hospital for observation.

Pel-Air Aviation is owned by REX, the regional airline.

John Sharp, chairman of Pel-Air Aviation, issued a statement that says:

They performed an intricate landing on water in darkness resulting in the evacuation of everyone safely and quickly.

The training of both the Pel-Air and CareFlight crew came to the fore as everyone kept together and remained calm. Their professionalism stood out on the day and made a substantial difference to the outcome.

CASA is understood to be examining the regulations concerning the alternative fuel requirements for operations of this nature, and the ATSB has launched an investigation looking at the safety rather than regulatory issues.

For airliner operations a flight to Norfolk Island without fuel reserves that allowed for a missed approach and a diversion to an alternative airport such at Auckland or Nouméa would be illegal.