Many years ago I took up skydiving before I decided it was better to remain in the aircraft for the full flight and became a pilot, giving up skydiving. While departing an aircraft in flight can certainly be exhilarating, I much prefer to remain in the cockpit and in control these days.
Not so for the pilot of a Britain Islander being used by the British Ministry of Defence in Germany. On a recent training exercise six chutists took off in the aircraft for a jump from 3,000 feet above a Joint Service Parachute Center at Bad Lippspringe in Germany.
At first the exercise was routine with five of the six departing the aircraft in an orderly and safe manner, each executing the maneuver without incident. The parachute instructor, the sixth jumper, departed in a rather unorthodox manner managing to have his primary chute deploy just in time to catch the landing gear of the fixed gear twin engined aircraft.
Observers on the ground noticed the instructor dangling from the aircraft as it approached to land at the airport, however, the aircraft banked after circling the airfield and promptly disappeared from the view of the spectators behind some trees. All assumed the worst.
The instructor managed to catch the eye of the pilot who leaned dangerously out of the aircraft to free the instructor from his dilemma allowing him to drop free and use his reserve chute to safely land on good old terra firma. The pilot declined to claim any special credit for his help simply stating it was all in a days work.
Not so lucky was a lovely young Russian girl who took her first skydiving lesson by departing a helicopter but opening her reserve chute, not her main chute, and wound up in some high power lines. The helicopter pilot, ever the hero, landed and removed the girl from the power lines and rushed her to a hospital nearby, knowing that time was of the essence.
Unfortunately the old adage that "haste makes waste" proved correct once again as the helicopter pilot failed to account for some wires strung between the hospital and a surgery building. As the helicopters blades struck the wires they self destructed spreading parts wide and large, followed shortly by the rear half of the helicopter falling off as well.
The young girl dies of her injuries - not from the power lines but rather from the helicopter crash. Once again it is clear that aviation is a dangerous profession, whether flying, skydiving or saving a fellow aviator.
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!