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Free Fall

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Other Amazing Stories
A number of the stories don't fit into any of the previously described categories, but they are amazing nonetheless, so we will discuss them here.

Amazing Stories
Joe Herman In April of 1944, Joe Herman was the pilot of a Royal Australian Air Force Halifax on a mission to bomb munition factories at Bochum. After dropping its bombs, Herman's Halifax was struck by enemy fire. Herman ordered his crew to bail out. Before he could grab his parachute, the plane exploded and he was thrown into the air. In mid-air, he collided with John Vivash, the mid-upper gunner, and grabbed onto Vivash's left leg around the same time as Vivash was opening his parachute. The parachute inflated slowly, which helped Herman maintain his grasp on Vivash. The two men came down safely under Vivash's parachute.
Ken Topaz In May of 1966, Flight Lt. Ken Topaz was the Air Electronics Officer on a Canberra B2 during a training flight. Experiencing troubles while landing, Topaz activated his ejection seat just as the plane's wingtip hit the ground. He ejected approximately twenty feet into the air, and landed before the parachute opened. He was badly injured but returned to flying after 18 months of hospitalization and rehabilitation. The pilot and navigator both died. Amazingly enough, Topaz is not the only person ever to have survived an ejection without also benefitting from a parachute. (See Greg Elcock below.) There is also an entry in the Incident Log in regard to another such incident. It also turns out that there are several pilots who have survived underwater ejections!
Greg Elcock In October of 1984, Lt. Cmdr. Greg Elcock was flying a U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler whose landing gear failed during landing on the U.S.S. Constellation (CV-64). Three electronic warfare officers in the Prowler ejected and their parachutes saved them. Elcock ejected as the aircraft nosed down into the water. He and his seat skipped across the waves and then separated. Elcock's automatic flotation device deployed and he survived with two fractured vertebrae and some internal injuries.
Al Wilson Al Wilson was a barnstorming plane-changer (i.e., someone who would step from the wings of one plane to another in flight). One day over southern California, Wilson accidentally stepped off a wing into the air, without a parachute. A pilot named Frank Clarke was flying below and behind, and flew down toward the falling Wilson. Wilson crashed head-first into Clarke's Jenny biplane and stuck in the upper wing panel. Clarke landed the plane and Wilson emerged alive.
Cliff Judkins In June of 1963, Lt. Cliff Judkins' F-8 Crusader jet fighter caught fire over the Pacific Ocean during refueling. His ejection seat failed and he was forced to bail out manually (something that no one had ever done successfully from an F-8). Judkins leaped from the aircraft, but his parachute did not open. He hit the water and was pulled out alive about two and a half hours later. He returned to flying after a six-month hospital stay. See the following link for a newspaper article on Judkin's fall.
Don Neville Early in 1945, Sgt. Don Neville was a gunner on a 458th Bomb Group B-24 bomber that blew up on take-off from its base in England. He fell about 200 feet into a clump of bushes and survived. Another crew member rode the severed tail to the ground and also survived.
Eddie Szula According to a 1942 Believe It or Not cartoon, Szula fell 2,000 feet when his parachute failed. He bounced four feet and never lost consciousness.
Colombian girl In January of 1995 a nine-year-old Colombian girl was the only survivor of a crash of a DC-9 jet near Cartagena, Colombia. It is believed she fell out of the plane when it broke up at 9,000 feet or so. She fell into a swampy area in Maria La Baja.
Ken Wright In June of 1945, Ken Wright was test flying a Mustang Mk 3. He engaged in some mock dogfighting, after which his aircraft began a diving turn that he could not get out of. With his airspeed indicator showing about 600 miles per hour, the plane started to disintegrate. First the tail section broke off, and then the wings. Unconscious at that point, Wright's body came free of the plane at low altitude, his parachute opening by chance. As the silk began to stream out, Wright was flung into the top branches of an oak tree, through a hedgerow, and into a farmers field where he left a trail of flattened oats about 200 yards long. Wright's wingman assumed his friend was dead, but then he saw Wright sit up. Wright was out of the hospital in three weeks and resumed flying after seven weeks.
Peter Underdown In October of 1954, Peter Underdown was flying a North American Sabre jet fighter that disintegrated in mid-air at around 2,000 feet. He was flung, still strapped in his ejection seat, into an orchard where he was found lodged in the branches of an apple tree. He had a number of broken bones and had no memory of the incident, but he was released from the hospital four weeks later. Apparently his low trajectory, which matched the angle of the sloping ground, and the protection of the ejection seat, which was facing backward when he went into the orchard, contributed to his survival.
Najib Ibrahim In May of 2002 Najib Ibrahim jumped from a flaming airliner onto a rooftop as the plane crashed in Kano, Nigeria. He survived with minor burns and a non-life-threatening blood clot in his liver. More than 70 passengers died and nearly as many lives were lost on the ground.
Fred Bist In mid-1942 Fred Bist was a mid-upper gunner in a Boston bomber on a low-level mission over France. His aircraft was hit by flak and broke in two. At about 500 feet, Bist was thrown from the aircraft without his parachute. He landed in a plowed field and was found by two German soldiers who took him to a hospital. In addition to burns and injuries from the flak, he also broke his neck and hand.
Ken Burns In August of 1943 Burns was a pilot in a Lancaster bomber that was set on fire by a German night fighter. He ordered his crew to bale out, which they did, and was trimming the plane so that he could exit when the fire reached the bomb bay and blew up the 4,000 lb. bomb there. Burns was blown out of the plane and dropped three miles to the earth. He woke up about three hours later lying in a plowed field. He found his parachute unopened, but a small streamer of silk had slipped out, which may have slowed his descent some as had the branches of some nearby pine trees. Burns' right forearm had been blown away by the explosion. Other injuries included a collapsed lung and a cracked spine.
Z. Gutowski A Polish Spitfire pilot named Gutowski was escorting some bombers back from a raid to France when his aircraft was hit by flak and knocked into a spin. He recovered from the spin in time to engage enemy fighters, but his Spitfire was hit again and sent into another spin. Too low to pull out, he bailed out at an altitude he estimated to be 150 feet. Just as his parachute began to stream out of its pack he hit a big pile of beet leaves and bounced to the ground unhurt. Ten yards away was the smoking wreckage of his plane.
Capitaine Larmier In May of 1940, an artillery observer named Larmier was a passenger in a Potez 63. Damaged by flak, the twin-engined aircraft headed down. At about 100 feet Larmier jumped, pulled his ripcord, and hoped for the best. He hit the ground as the parachute began to stream out, landing on the top of a haystack. He survived unhurt.
R.C. Sharma In November of 1997, R.C. Sharma, the director of the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation was seriously injured when he fell while waving from the door of an Indian Airlines plane at Borjhar Airport. However it should be noted that the plane was on the ground at the time.

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| The Unplanned Freefall | Falling Math | Fictional Falls | Record Falls |
| Incident Log | Questions | Recommended Reading | About This Research |

Questions? Send an e-mail to Jim Hamilton.

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