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Turboporter Accident

by Bill Bull (MYC '64) |

It was a hot day in July of 1967 in the McCall area. Two aircraft were parked along the strip and jumpers were sitting nearby with their jump gear. Suddenly, the "scramble" phone rang!

No fire had been reported, but the fire level was considered to be at such a high level that a decision had been made to send both aircraft on a late evening patrol over the forest.

Each aircraft would fly over its assigned area, searching for any sign of smoke, until dark. The men scurried to get into their bulky jumpsuits. In teams of two they helped each other attach parachutes to their harnesses. Each man then carefully checked his partner to insure that everything was attached properly, I was the spotter for our flight and after the men loaded up I climbed into the cockpit beside the pilot (Dave Schass was flying.) I told him we were ready. The large, three-blade prop began to turn slowly and then rapidly built up speed, and the sound changed from a low-pitched whine to a roar. Dave looked me again and I nodded, saying, "All set." He released the brakes and we began to move.

The noise quieted a little as the tires left the hard asphalt. Dave pulled the nose up and we began to climb steeply. I adjusted the headphones and picked up the radio's microphone to call the dispatcher. We were passing through an altitude of 400 feet as I depressed the button and started to speak. It was then that the engine quit!

I wonder if there is any other feeling that can quite compare with that which tends to sweep over a person seated in a heavily loaded aircraft moments after takeoff when the engine quit. Dave pushed the stick forward in an attempt to maintain enough airspeed so we would not stall and spin into the ground. We started turning to the left but there wasn't time to get back to the strip. The ship, with its six men, fire equipment and full load of fuel was too heavy. We were too low to use our chutes. I shouted at the four jumpers to "Hang on!" I grabbed the bottom of the instrument panel with both hands. It seemed only seconds until we struck the ground--hard! The landing gear collapsed and the plane settled to the ground, sliding to an abrupt stop in tall grass. I grabbed for the emergency door release handle but found the door was no longer there. We had to get out before the plane possibly caught on fire. Jet fuel was streaming out of the wing. Dave and the jumpers were out of the aircraft and then I too exited after finally managing to get my seatbelt loose.

I found that I had a cut on the front of my head and had punched a hole through the windshield. Other than being a little sore from being tossed around in the plane, the jumpers were in good shape. Dave was holding his right forearm in the palm of his left hand. It was obvious that his arm was broken. Luckily, the plane did not explode and burn.