Thursday, Jul 24, 2014
SIU Aviation Student Parachutes Out of Broken Plane
WSIL -- An SIU aviation student was forced to put his emergency training to use this weekend. Shawn Kinmartin parachuted to safety as his plane crashed into an Illinois field.
The SIU senior has dreams of becoming an airline pilot. Kinmartin was back at school on Monday morning and was scheduled to fly again later that afternoon.
The crash on Saturday is still under investigation, but SIU Aviation staff are happy Kinmartin is safe.
Kinmartin is still a little shocked from his wild ride back to the ground.
"They had the philosophy that aircraft can be replaced, people cannot," said Kinmartin. "So I was glad they had that philosophy as well."
On Saturday, the 21-year-old was flying his fifth set of sky divers for a company in Missouri. That's when something went wrong.
"I thought the last skydiver hit my aircraft," said Kinmartin. "But it turned out that a piece of his equipment actually struck my elevator of my aircraft on his way down."
The impact pushed his plane higher and to the point Kinmartin thought it was going to stall. He regained control and called the control towers.
"As I'm going down, I try testing the elevator to see if I could flare before landing so it could be a safe landing," said Kinmartin. "And then I realized I really couldn't do it at all."
His boss flew by in another plane to check out the damage. It was enough for them to decide to fly over an Illinois field and ditch the aircraft.
"Company policy to wear a parachute when we go flying," said Kinmartin. "So I had the parachute ready, I just never used it before. Never, ever sky dived in my life."
At just 1,500 feet above the farmland, Kinmartin finally let go of the controls and stepped out of the plane.
"It was kind of like an oh my God moment," said Kinmartin. "I was actually sideways, but the second I knew I was clear, I pulled that handle as hard as I could."
He watched the plane crash and floated to safety in the next seconds. Kinmartin later called his SIU instructor to let him know about the crazy day.
"The number one thing that goes over my mind is I'm glad he's okay," said Assistant Chief Pilot Mike Veselka.
Veselka trains students to handle emergency situations. However, this scenario can't really be practiced in the air.
"Typically, in a case like his, he's lost a primary control service of the aircraft," said Veselka. "Not too many people walk away from that."
The aviation school usually teaches pilots to stay with a plane and try to land. Veselka calls this a freak occurrence, and he's proud of how Kinmartin calmly handled everything.
"It's all about using all your available resources and making the right decision to eliminate the risk," said Veselka. "And he did a great job."
Kinmartin wants to try sky diving at that normal height of 11,000 feet above the ground so he can get the full experience.
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