Engine failure caused the single-engine Texas Sports Club plane to crash. The pilot suffered a minor injury.
The pilot of the plane, David Prizio, 62, said dying never crossed his mind.
"I was pretty calm. You look at the situation and you realize this is what we have to deal with. I had a pretty good idea what I needed to do," said Prizio.
Prizio and his passenger were flying to Catalina for lunch when the engine died.
"I did some pretty quick math and realized I wasn't going to make it to the airport," said Prizio.
Seeing several boats about six miles northeast off the coast of Catalina, Prizio directed the plane in that direction.
"I wanted to land in front of them, hoping they would spot us," he said.
"We were lucky that the sea was smooth and the plane didn't flip over," Prizio said.
Prizio and his passenger were rescued by Drew Naffziger and his family. Naffziger, 50, was sailing to Catalina with his wife and brother when he saw the plane.
“My immediate response was to get them off the water as soon as possible because the water temperature was 57 degrees,” Naffziger said. “That’s very cold.”
Naffziger threw the men a life preserver and pulled them into his boat.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.