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Skydivers land safely in Hoke after plane loses power

Posted May 6, 2012
Updated May 7, 2012

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— Four skydivers and a pilot were safe Monday after their plane lost power during a flight in Hoke County over the weekend.

A group of professional skydivers was headed to a parachute demonstration at the Cape Fear Harley Davidson open house Saturday when engine trouble forced them to make an emergency landing.

Minutes after takeoff, the single-engine Cessna 206 aircraft lost power at about 1,100 feet.

"We were in the process of unhooking our seat belts and the plane kind of sputtered a couple of times," said parachutist Mike Elliott. "The engine shut off."

That's when Harold Meyer said he glanced around at the rest of the parachute team before deciding to jump from the plane.

"We kind of took a glance at each other and said, 'Uh oh. What's going on?'" he said. "We really didn't have time to panic. When (the pilot) said, 'Get out,' you just get out.'"

The four men jumped out, landing safely in a field off Scull Road near U.S. Highway 401 outside Raeford.

Engine trouble forces early jump for skydivers in Hoke County Engine trouble forces early jump for skydivers in Hoke County

Elliott said the jump was frightening, but that years of experience helped keep him calm.

"Anytime you zip out of an airplane and you're falling towards earth at 120 mph and you have pressure to open up (your parachute) at a certain altitude to save your life, there's danger involved," he said.

"When that happens, you have to react. There's no time to think about it – it becomes muscle memory. That's why we practice, practice, practice."

The pilot landed the plane in a field about a half-mile away.

State troopers later towed the plane back to the Raeford Aiport.

Elliott said most of the skydivers, including himself and Meyer, are former members of the Golden Knights, the Army parachuting team at Fort Bragg.

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  • fayncmike May 8, 2012

    "I have jumped 146 times before hanging up my hat 16 years ago.
    mfarmer1"

    I've got about the same number of jumps under a "C" licence. I still would love to get back in the sport though it would take some major shaping up.

  • Yankee AirPirate May 8, 2012

    It was a good job done by all involved in an do or die emergency. That's where all the training and repetition pays off. Kudos to all of them.

  • mfarmer1 May 8, 2012

    > "Why some jump out of a perfectly good airplane I'll never understand"

    Adrenaline

    I have jumped 146 times before hanging up my hat 16 years ago.

  • fayncmike May 8, 2012

    "they were skydivers. didn't they expect to land safely?
    monkeyboy"

    I don't understand your comment. Of course we expect to land safely, why wouldn't we? That doesn't mean that there aren't occasional problems that can crop up. That's why we like to open at around 3,000 feet. That gives us a reasonable amount of time to deal with any problem that might arise.

  • sytwsytb May 8, 2012

    I've got a bunch of hours as a skydiver driver. This pilot did an outstanding job to maintain control of the aircraft after a loss of power at a low altitude and low airspeed while climbing, while four jumpers scramble out (weight and balance), at the same time locating a place to hopefully land and setup for an emergency landing with no injuries and apparently little or no damage to the aircraft. Great job.

  • btneast May 7, 2012

    they were skydivers. didn't they expect to land safely?

    ....from only 1100 feet, I would have been a tad concerned. Barely enough time for the chute to open, especially for the last guy out.

  • ligonmaterial23 May 7, 2012

    Why some jump out of a perfectly good airplane I'll never understand but to each his own , glad they bailed out safely and the pilot and plane made down in one piece

  • monkeyboy May 7, 2012

    "Mike Elliott, 43, said he and the other skydivers HAD TOOK OFF from the Raeford Airport bound for a parachute demonstration at the Cape Fear Harley-Davidson open house in Fayetteville."

    now that, sir, is some fine writing!!(emphasis mine for clarity)

    they were skydivers. didn't they expect to land safely?

  • fayncmike May 7, 2012

    I haven't jumped at Raeford for a while now but the idea of losing power during climb out has always worried me. Also, 1,100 feet isn't much to get four jumpers out and under canopy safely. We usually open at about 3,000 feet. That gives us some time to react to any problems that might come up.