Dra­matic res­cue after mo­tor­glider lands in dam

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Matthew New­ton

WELL-KNOWN lo­cal avi­a­tor Paul Har­ring­ton will be for­ever grate­ful to the boat­ies who res­cued him from his burn­ing mo­tor­glider, which he was forced to ditch in Peter Faust Dam on Sun­day morn­ing.

Mr Har­ring­ton said he was fly­ing his AMT-200 mo­tor­glider on his way to Bur­ke­town via Ge­orge­town in or­der to surf the Morn­ing Glory, a mas­sive roll cloud that can pro­pel glid­ers to in­cred­i­ble speeds.

How­ever, his jour­ney was cut short in a dra­matic fash­ion.

Mr Har­ri­son was trav­el­ling at 4000ft over Peter Faust Dam when smoke be­gan to fill the cock­pit, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to breathe.

“I opened the side win­dows and put my hand out to try and get air in but it wasn’t enough, so I de­cided to jet­ti­son the canopy.”

The canopy re­leased only part­way be­fore jam­ming, at which point flames leapt up through the front right hand side of the plane and over the top of the stain­less steel fire­wall.

Mr Har­ring­ton said he ap­plied his air­brakes fully to get down as quickly as he could due to the “in­tense heat”.

“It’s a hard choice. You can ei­ther stay with the plane and burn to death, which is pretty aw­ful, or jump out and be killed in­stantly. I wasn’t wear­ing a para­chute,” he said.

Mr Har­ring­ton de­cided to stay with the plane and aimed for an area in front of a speed­boat he had seen travers­ing the lake, in case he was knocked un­con­scious by the force of the im­pact and needed res­cu­ing.

“I must have hit the wa­ter at about 90 miles an hour. I was aim­ing to do a stall on land­ing but the heat was too in­tense so from about 40ft up I put the nose down and plum­meted in,” he said.

“It wasn’t bad. I was wide awake and I punched out, got my har­ness off, jumped over the side to cool off.”

Two boats quickly came to Mr Har­ring­ton’s aid and towed him back to shore be­fore ex­tin­guish­ing the fire with the wash from their pro­pel­lers.

Mt Ju­lian res­i­dent Jan Botes said was on­board one of the boats.

“The plane was on fire so we re­versed up to it with the boat and lifted the pro­peller and pumped wa­ter onto the plane,” he said.

Mr Botes’ friend Norm Dansey was with him on­board and said that in hind­sight it was prob­a­bly dan­ger­ous to put out the fire.

“It was de­bat­able whether you should or not, but we did. You’ve got to help when you can,” he said.

“It’s not some­thing you run into ev­ery day. Any­one would’ve done the same.”

The mo­tor­glider was towed to shore and lifted out of the dam on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

Mr Har­ring­ton was taken to Proser­pine Hos­pi­tal for smoke in­hala­tion and re­leased on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

He said he was not sure how he es­caped un­harmed.

“Ev­ery­thing was burned around me. All the in­stru­ments were burned, the stuff along­side me, my lug­gage, that was all burned. And yet not even a hair was singed,” he said.

Mr Har­ring­ton said he wanted to thank ev­ery­one who helped him.

“Peo­ple have been so good to me, so help­ful. The guys in the boats, the peo­ple in the hos­pi­tal – I can’t thank them enough.”

ON DRY LAND: Mt Ju­lian res­i­dents Jan Botes, Norm Dansey and Sun­wa­ter stor­age su­per­vi­sor Mark Hobbs in­spect Paul Har­ring­ton's AMT-200 mo­tor­glider after it was hauled out of Peter Faust Dam on Sun­day.

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