Trainee pilot in rescue drama
Published: December 19, 2006 | 5207th good news item since 2003
A HELICOPTER instructor and his student rescued a pilot from a plane crash after answering a Mayday distress call while on a training run.
Flight instructor Dominic Underdown and student Matt Beeke helped the woman escape from the wreckage of her biplane, which had crashed in a field in Oving, near Chichester, West Sussex.
Mr Beeke, 36, of Slipshatch Road, Reigate, was on a training exercise on Sunday morning last week with London Helicopters, based at Redhill Aerodrome, in South Nutfield, when he received the call.
He was on a journey from Redhill to Sandown, on the Isle of Wight, when a call came across that there had been a crash.
With the help of his flight instructor, Mr Beeke diverted from his course and the helicopter made its way to the scene.
Mr Underdown, 35, of Lancing,West Sussex, is also a qualified nurse and was prepared to give his assistance.
He said: “When we received the call I asked if they needed any help and they took me up on it. We flew there and landed and noticed the plane was upside down, in a bit of a state and in a very poor condition. My student and I went to investigate and we found the woman trapped but alive. It looked as though no one could have survived because it looked so horrendous and the plane was in a real mess.”
The female pilot had been flying around Arundel before nose-diving into the field.
Thanks to the quick thinking of Mr Underdown and Mr Beeke, she was rescued from the plane and taken by ambulance to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester. She made a full recovery and within three hours was back at home.
Mr Beeke,who is a property developer for Oracle Homes, had only been training to fly for six months, but said they had to answer the call for help.
He said: “I flew us into the site and Dominic landed us. The thing was when we touched down, we both looked at each other and thought she would be dead.
“We thought we were going over to the plane to see a dead body. We thought we were going to have to drag a body out. It was a miracle that she was alive.
“I felt as though I did not want to go and look, but if you were in that position you would need help, so I had to offer my assistance.”
After landing, Mr Underdown, Mr Beeke and his friend Les Cooper from Dorking,who had gone along for a ride, lifted up the plane and pulled the pilot out. Mr Underdown then used his medical expertise to help make the woman comfortable while waiting for the emergency services.
He said: “We saw the aircraft was on its back and it looked as though it was buried in the field. It was absolutely awful. The tail had been snapped off and the propeller had also snapped and the wheels had come off.
“The farmer who owned the field was talking to the female pilot while she was trapped in the cockpit.
“I am a relatively experienced pilot in being able to fly a helicopter, and with my medical background I felt it was my duty to help. There was no question that was what I was going to do.”
Mr Underdown was full of praise for his student, who was able to make the diversion to the crash scene in less that five minutes and help rescue her from a dangerous position.
He said: “My student was brilliant. He did a really good job. He had to do a real-life deviation and I only had to take over when we descended on the field. He was very worried about the person being dead, but we managed to cope and were pleased she came out of it OK.”