Woman gives birth on floatplane to Ketchikan

Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2004

KETCHIKAN - The term "airborne" took on a new meaning when a Metlakatla woman gave birth high above Southeast Alaska on a floatplane to Ketchikan.

The baby girl was delivered safely to Jenifer Chinuhuk aboard a Pacific Airways floatplane Sunday. Isabelle Chinuhuk weighed in at 5 pounds, 9 ounces, and was 1914 inches long.

"She's perfect," Chinuhuk said Monday at Ketchikan General Hospital.

Jenifer and husband Jamie Chinuhuk had not expected the birth of Isabelle until mid-January, but when Jenifer's labor began on Sunday, a medical evacuation was arranged and she was brought to the Metlakatla dock by ambulance.

Two doctors were on the flight, but Jamie Chinuhuk had to stay behind because there was not enough room on the plane.

The child was born as the plane descended into Ketchikan.

"I heard the baby cry as I was starting to land," pilot Randy Sullivan said. "The doctor yelled, 'It's a girl!"'

The umbilical cord was clamped and cut by the time the floatplane reached the dock, said Jenifer Chinuhuk.

Jamie Chinuhuk arrived later that afternoon, after pacing the dock waiting for the next Ketchikan-bound flight.

During his flight, he heard that Jenifer had given birth, but he didn't know the child was a girl until he walked into the hospital room and his wife said, "You missed her."

The new mother said the trip was the nicest flight she ever had and thanked Sullivan.

The pilot took his own daughter to visit the newborn at the hospital on Sunday evening.

"I've done medevacs before, but usually it's someone who has broken their arm out in the Bush," Sullivan said. "(Sunday) was pretty incredible. I certainly wasn't expecting her to give birth on the aircraft."

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