Paulo Henrique Santos and plane after emergency bailout
February 18, 2002
I am proudly saying that I was saved by your equipment last Saturday. I was in a practicing session with my Extra 230, when I decided to train my free Advanced sequence, which I flew for the first time in a previous flight that day. I dived to enter the aerobatic box and start the first maneuver(a P loop with a roll at the top). Usually I left the airspeed reaches the a very high airspeed (around Vne 250 mph), to have plenty of energy to perform the sequence, but in this dive the airspeed overshoot by approximately 10 mph the airplane limit. I leveled the airplane and push briefly the stick to mark the level flight. After this I felt a roughness in the stick, which became a strong vibration. At this time I looked to my left wing and saw the airplane being ripped off from the wing. After that the airplane start to banked right, and I tried regain control using the stick, without success. The airplane start to sink I was sure that I will not be able to stay alive inside the cockpit. Then I took the difficult decision to bail-out. I opened the canopy, took out the harness and the phone, and quickly was out of the airplane. Immediately I pull the ripcord and the chute deployment was totally successful, in a negligible amount of time. I was around 1000 ft above ground. I had the feeling of a complete tranquility. There was no sound, and only a sensation of being guiding in a mildly gliding to the ground. I raised my head and saw that incredible vision: a perfectly round orange canopy. I was save. The touch with the ground was noticeably soft. I have never had a previous experience in jumping. I remembered to bend my knees to reduce the chances of any leg injury. At the ground I hardly believe that I was totally uninjured. The airplane felt around 500 meters far from me, totally destroyed.
The chute was re-rigged a couple of weeks ago as recommended. The excellence of the equipment, the good rigger job, and my care in flying always in a safe altitude resulted in only material losses.
I don't know if in the future I will have the privilege to fly another airplane like this one. Undoubtedly I will miss the pleasure and challenge to fly the perfect maneuver. Otherwise all the kindness demonstrated from friends to unknown people to me and my family will also be in my memory, and certainly will aide-me in overcoming this experience.
From the entire episode, one great lesson that I will like to transmit for all aerobatic pilots is never minimize the safety precautions about airplane limitations, altitude, parachute maintenance, and even the ground under the aerobatic box, which also contributed to the my success. Another lesson: we pilots do not usually think seriously in a condition that requires to bail-out. I always thought that this would not happen to me.
When it happened, I did not hesitate. It is very important to be decisive, as the time pass very quick, and rely totally in the parachute.
Finally I will always emphasize the quality and performance of the Butler parachute, which was remarkable. I would really like to thank you.