Thursday, July 29, 2010

29 July 2010, Day 2

Planes were still landing this afternoon at the Open Class tie-down area, as we were wiping the bugs from the wings and getting ready to put covers on the plane for the night. Not really understanding, because it didn't make sense, we heard someone a few planes over shouting, "Oh, no. He's hit the truck!" And then there was a loud "ka-thunk."

We looked in the direction of the sound, and there, lying on top of the fence separating the airport from the highway just to the north, was a glider. But it was facing the north--opposite the direction in which it would have been landing. And it didn't seem to have any wings. Immediately, the canopy popped open, meaning, perhaps, that the pilot was safe.

He was. The first bystander on the scene, pilot Francois Jeremaisse (LSJ) of the Netherlands, ran to the downed pilot, Lars Zehnder (VW) of Australia, shouting, "Stay in the glider! Stay in the glider!" He did.

And on the road to the north, Highway 55, leading from Szeged to Baja, traffic came to a halt. A large, and more important, tall Mercedes truck, with the logo "ACTIROS" was not moving. All around it, people were gathering. And later, as we walked closer to the scene, we could see the wing jutting out of the shattered windshield of the truck, still stranded on the highway. On the airport side of the event, the fence lay on the ground with a concrete post shattered and lying on its side. The glider faced the highway, with its fuselage fractured at the wing-joint.

We talked with several people who observed the event. They all saw the same thing: the glider came over the highway, landing toward the south, and before it crossed the fence between the road and the runway, it hit the truck, cartwheeled, and landed on the fence, nose toward the road.

It was a tall truck. The glider was low. Perhaps it would not have struck a lower vehicle. Had there been no vehicle at all, it could have passed safely onto the runway. Many planes were landing with very little energy—this was hardly the only low finisher.

We have heard that the pilot is uninjured, but the truck driver was not so lucky. Several ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, and a medical helicopter arrived within minutes.

Gena Tabery