10 Most Outstanding Pilots

1Jessica Cox: the first pilot with no arms

Jessica Cox suffered a rare birth defect and was born without arms. None of the prenatal tests her mother took showed there was anything wrong with her. And yet she was born with this rare congenital disease, but also with a great spirit. The psychology graduate can write, type, drive a car, brush her hair and talk on her phone simply using her feet. Ms Cox, from Tuscon, Arizona, USA, is also a former dancer and double black belt in Tai Kwon-Do. She has a no-restrictions driving license, she flies planes and she can type 25 words a minute.

The plane she is flying is called an Ercoupe and it is one of the few airplanes to be made and certified without pedals. Without rudder pedals Jessica is free to use her feet as hands. It took her three years instead of the usual six months to complete her lightweight aircraft license. She had three flying instructors and practiced 89 hours of flying, becoming the first pilot with no arms.

2Ian Fortune: the pilot who managed to safely land a helicopter with 20 people after being shot in the face

A British military pilot managed to get twenty passengers to the ground despite a bullet between his eyes. Flight Lieutenant Ian Fortune was ferrying the wounded from a battle between American troops and the Taliban in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. As he was taking off with a full load of casualties, a bullet ricocheted through the helicopter and struck Fortune in the face. Further rounds then struck the helicopter's automatic stabilization system, shutting it down and making it extremely difficult to fly.

Despite blood streaming into his eyes, Flight Lt Fortune battled with the controls for eight minutes and managed to get the casualties back to Camp Bastion. TV Presenter Mike Brewer was on the helicopter when the incident took place. He told Sky News: “It was terrifying. We came under fire just as the ramp was closing. Then just after we'd taken off, the Chinook suddenly lurched from side to side and we heard the pilot had been shot. The only reason we didn't plunge straight back into the desert was because of the sheer bravery and skill of Ian and the rest of the crew. They're all heroes.”

3Frank Vogt: the traffic pilot who landed on Jersey turnpike

Frank Vogt is a traffic pilot whose Cessna lost oil pressure 1200 feet off the ground. In the early dawn darkness, the ground looked like one big mass of black void - except the turnpike. “I knew it was wide enough, I knew it was straight enough. There weren't any wires, and I didn't see many overpasses,” Vogt said. He reasoned that since the traffic was still light, there would be enough space between the cars so that they could slow down and let him in. His hastily concocted plan worked perfectly. He even managed to pull his Cessna to the side of the road, although the inevitable rubbernecking — completely justified in this case — still blocked traffic a mile-and-a-half in both directions.


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4Evan Graham: the solo pilot who could fly five different aircrafts by the age of 16

Evan Graham celebrated his 16th birthday (on August 6) by soloing five different aircrafts: a vintage WWII L-4 Piper Cub taildrager, a R-22 Robinson helicopter, a Cessna 150 Aerobat, a Robinson 44 Raven II and a 1965 Cessna 150-150 - setting the world record for the youngest solo pilot to fly five different aircrafts. On a grass runway, with three flight instructors present and three sign offs, Evan logged 2 hours of solo time in 5 different aircrafts, ending the morning before noon with the traditional bucket drench.

5James Terry: the pilot who could fix his airplane from the outside while flying

One of the difficulties of air travel is the impossibility of making repairs outside of the cockpit while the ship is in flight. This holds particularly true when the trouble is centered around the tail. Look closely at the photo: yup, that's James Terry of Miami, Florida, an inventor who demonstrated his safety device for repairing airplanes while flying! From the June 1930 edition of Modern Mechanic.

6Brian Bews: the pilot who managed to eject seconds before the crash

That man in the top of this photo? That's Captain Brian Bews and he's lucky to be alive. The skilled pilot barely managed to eject before his CF-18 fighter jet crashed during a practice flight. The practice flight took place at Lethbridge County Airport and was apparently in preparation for the weekend airshow in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. There are no details as to exactly why the jet fighter went down. We do know that Captain Bews was taken to the hospital for injury treatment.

7Doug White: the passenger who managed to land the plane after the pilot died during the flight

When the pilot of the twin-engine Beech aircraft passed out and died mid-flight, passenger Doug White of Archibald, Louisiana, took over the plane and landed it safely. White, his wife and two daughters were flying from Marco Island, Florida, to Jackson, Mississippi, on Sunday after attending a funeral for White's brother when he realized there was something wrong with his pilot. The plane's autopilot was on, and the plane was at about 5,000 feet and climbing, White said. Although he was a certified single-engine pilot and had about 130 flying hours, he had no idea how to fly the much larger Super King Air two-engine turboprop plane. He told his daughters, " 'Y'all go back there, and I want you to pray hard." Although White sounded fairly calm, some tension is evident on recordings released by the Federal Aviation Administration as controllers at Fort Myers, Florida, attempted to talk him through landing at the airport there. At one point, a controller asked whether the autopilot is still on or whether White is flying the aircraft himself. "Me and the good Lord are hand-flying this," White replied.

The cause of Cabuk's death has not been released. The Federal Aviation Administration has not given any of the involved air traffic controllers permission to speak about the incident.

8The pilot who fixed a plane torn down by a bear using duct tape

Did a bear tear your airplane to bits in a remote part of Alaska? No problem – we can fix that with a little duct tape. During a private "fly-in" fishing excursion in the Alaskan wilderness, the chartered pilot and fishermen left a cooler and bait in the plane. And a bear smelled it. This is what he did to the plane. The pilot used his radio and had another pilot bring him 2 new tires, 3 cases of duct tape, and a supply of sheet plastic. He patched the plane together, and flew it home!

9Tom Attridge: the fighter pilot who managed to shoot himself down

On September 21, 1956, test pilot Tom Attridge was flying Grumman's new F-11F-1 Tiger. He fired a burst from his 20mm cannon while diving and accelerating. The cockpit was then struck by an outside object. Attridge immediately radioed that he was returning to base. While attempting to land, the jet lost power and crash-landed on the runway. Attridge, thankfully, escaped safely. A subsequent examination found three bullet impacts and one intact 20mm bullet in the plane. Attridge had managed to shoot his own fighter down.

How did this happen? The combination of conditions responsible for the event was: (1) the decay in projectile velocity and trajectory drop; (2) the approximate 0.5-G descent of the F11F-1, due in part to its nose pitching down from firing low-mounted guns; (3) alignment of the boresight line of 0° to the line of flight. With that 0.5-G dive, Attridge had flown below the trajectory of his bullets and, 11 seconds later, flew through them as their flight paths met.

10Mason Dunn: the helicopter pilot who saved a stranded deer

The pilot of an Oklahoma City TV news helicopter used the wind from the aircraft's rotor to push a stranded deer to safety after it lost its footing on a frozen lake and could not get up. A small crowd had gathered to watch the deer struggling, its hooves repeatedly slipping, near the shore of Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, Oklahoma.

With the helicopter's camera rolling, KWTV pilot Mason Dunn used the wind from the rotor to push the deer, initially sending it into a break in the ice where the animal managed to hold onto the ice with its front legs. Dunn then lowered the helicopter and the wind sent the deer sliding on its belly across the ice until it reached shore and scampered into a nearby wooded area.

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