Two Pilots Saved a Man Who Felt Out of Another Plane

Two Pilots Saved a Man Who Felt Out of Another Plane

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When Marine Second Lieutenant Walter Osipoff
was boarding a DC-2 plane at about 9:30 AM on May 15, 1941, he didn’t know yet that the
flight would almost become his very last. Shortly after the takeoff, an accident that
no one could have predicted left the man dangling high in the air, tangled in his parachute
and hanging from the aircraft’s tail in midflight. It was another regular sunny morning in California,
and everything was calm at the North Island Naval airbase. There were no warning signs to the drama that
was about to unfold in just a couple of hours. Walter Osipoff was getting ready for a routine
parachute jump. That day, an Ohio-born lieutenant was the
jumpmaster for a group of 12 ‘chutists. Plus, he was supposed to parachute overboard
three canvas cylinders full of different ammunition. At a set time, the plane took off and headed
toward Kearney Mesa, San Diego. Most of his men had already jumped out of
the aircraft when Osipoff decided it was time to send the cargo packs through the hatch. He pushed out the first 150-pound container
and was about to send the second pack flying when the unthinkable happened. His parachute’s ripcord got tangled with the
automatic-release cord of the cargo cylinder, and the next thing he knew – his parachute
was deploying inside the plane! Horrified, the man was trying to grab the
billowing silk, but it slipped through his fingers like water… yanking Osipoff out
of the plane. The weight of the man, combined with the weight
of the cargo container and the pull from the open parachute, ripped a massive 2-and-a-half-foot
gash in the aluminum fuselage of the plane. But that wasn’t the end of the story. With one of the leg-straps and the chest-strap
broken, Osipoff’s parachute got wrapped around the DC-2’s tail wheel. The only leg-strap that was still intact slipped
down to the lieutenant’s ankle, and the man, hung by his feet, and caught in a tangle of
cables, silk, and harness, was dangling about 15 feet behind the plane. All but four lines connecting Osipoff’s harness
and the parachute snapped one by one. Luckily, the seasoned parachutist knew well
enough not to release the emergency chute. Otherwise, with this parachute pulling him
back, and the airplane moving forward, he could be torn in half. Osipoff was conscious and aware both of the
dire situation he was in and of the fact that he was hurting all over. But at that time, he didn’t know yet that
two of his ribs, as well as three vertebrae, had been fractured. A cargo hatch handle had cut his left shoulder
and arm, and he was badly bruised all over. The only thing the man could think of was
to keep his eyes tightly squeezed and his arms and legs crossed against the violent
wind. The first person who figured out that something
had gone wrong (besides Walter Osipoff, of course) was the plane’s pilot, Captain Harold
Johnson. The control wheel hit him in the stomach hard,
and immediately after that, the man realized the plane’s nose tilted up precariously. The tail felt so heavy that the pilot had
to struggle to guide the nose back down. With growing dread, he realized that a person
was hanging from the plane’s tail. Unfortunately, there was no radio on board,
and Johnson couldn’t call for help. That’s why the pilot decided to risk a daring
maneuver. Having lowered the plane as much as he could,
Johnson started to circle over Camp Kearney, Camp Elliott, and then, over the naval air
station in the harbor of North Island. His speed was just 110 miles per hour, and
it was the slowest he could manage. Unfortunately, such speed made the plane spend
much more fuel than normal, and this problem had to be solved immediately. Inside the airplane, the rest of the crew
were struggling to find a way to pull Osipoff back to safety, but all their attempts failed
since they couldn’t reach the man. On top of that, they were risking slipping
out of the plane themselves, because nobody had a parachute on. Meanwhile, the plane had already lowered to
an altitude of just a few hundred feet, and the pilot could see people standing on the
ground, their faces upturned and shocked. But there was no way they could help, and
if Johnson tried to land the plane, it would undoubtedly end Osipoff’s life. But just when it seemed there was no hope
for a happy ending, Lieutenant Bill Lowrey looked up at the sky. The 34-year-old Navy test pilot had just finished
his observation flight and was strolling toward his office, together with John McCants, a
41-year-old aviation chief machinist’s mate. Almost immediately, the two men realized what
was going on, and Lowrey phoned the control tower with the request to approve his rescue
plan. After that, the lieutenant ordered the mechanic
to prepare the plane, a two-seat, open-cockpit SOC-1, for takeoff. Before, Lowrey and McCants had never flown
together, but both were ready to try the impossible. As the men were climbing into the plane, several
Marines sprinted toward them, holding out knives to cut Osipoff’s shroud lines loose. As the plane carrying the two Navy men roared
to life and took off, all the activity on the base, as well as in San Diego itself,
seemed to freeze. People crowded on roofs, children gathered
on the streets, all eyes were fixed on the planes. By that time, the crew on board the DC-2 had
already managed to pull Osipoff back in a bit, but this process was nowhere near completion. Lowrey and McCants were flying at an altitude
of 300 feet, right under the dangling parachutist, but the air was too bumpy to attempt an approach. With the help of hand signals, Lowrey explained
to Johnson that they had to head toward the Pacific where the air was smoother. Also, the planes climbed to a much higher
altitude of 3,000 feet. Johnson was holding a straight course, and
flying at the speed of 100 miles per hour, similar to that of the smaller plane. The most alarming thing was that Johnson had
enough fuel for only 10 more minutes at the most. Osipoff was in pretty bad shape as well, and
blood was already dripping from his helmet. It meant that Lowrey and McCants had to act
fast and precisely. So, McCants stood up in the rear cockpit,
and Lowrey lined up the left wing of the biplane right under the parachutist’s body. He had to be extremely careful to keep the
propeller away from Osipoff’s head. After several agonizing seconds, McCants managed
to grab the dangling man by his waist and felt Osipoff fling his arms around the mechanic
in a panicked grip. But now the men were facing another problem:
the plane was too small for three grown-ups. That’s why McCants had to stretch the parachutist’s
body across the top of the fuselage. Even though Lowrey was doing his best to keep
the plane in the necessary position, they were desperately running out of time. McCants was trying to cut the shroud lines,
but it was taking more time than the men had expected. And then, suddenly, a grinding screech filled
the air. The propeller of the SOC-1 sliced about 12
inches off the bigger plane’s tail. Miraculously, both planes were still flying,
and Osipoff was still lying horizontally on top of the fuselage. Besides, during the collision, the biplane’s
propeller cut through the shroud lines, and the planes were free to land! But while Johnson landed his aircraft safely
and without any problems, Lowrey wasn’t so lucky. A part of the parachute got stuck in the plane’s
rudder, and the pilot couldn’t control the direction of the descent. Grasping each other in the rear seat, McCants
and Osipoff could only hope that Lowrey’s skills would help them stay alive. And indeed, the pilot managed to land the
plane, and in mere seconds, it was surrounded by cheering people. Osipoff, who was taken to the hospital after
enduring his nightmarish 33-minute flight, made a complete recovery. After his release 6 months later, he returned
to parachute jumping and got promoted to First Lieutenant. As for Lowrey and McCants, both men got the
Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary heroism. How about you? Ever get hung up on an airplane by your parachute? Have you ever heard about other incredible
survival stories? Let me know down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then give
this video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go leaping out of airplanesr
just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to
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