On the morning of April 10th, 1998 a Cessna airplane was trapped in the power lines above Boeing Field in Tukwila. Tukwila's Ladder54 aerial platform fire truck company rescues the pilot. The photos show Ladder54 firefighter Rich R. performing the rescue 60 feet above ground. The story was carried on international news and the BBC did a television story on the rescue.
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Tukwila Special Operations Rescue Teams aircraft rescue emergency
1998 Airplane Rescue from Power Lines at Tukwila's Boeing Field
Ladder54's airplane rescue at Boeing Field on cover of Fire Rescue magazine May 1998

The Cessna airplane was flying into Tukwila's Boeing Field that morning and struck the high power lines. The aircraft was hanging upside down from one wheel balancing on the wires 60+ feet above the ground.

It took several hours for Lt. Byron's Tukwila SPECOPS TEAM to rescue the pilot. Several more hours to remove the airplane. The entire operation was performed by the fire department without mishap.

This rescue landed Ladder54 on the front page of Fire Rescue Magazine. On here are a few photos of the aircraft rescue and the original story as reported by the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

(click on the image at left to view larger image in a separate window)
Ladder54 firefighter Rich Rees rescues pilot from the aircraft
View of airplane from the street in the early morning hours
(click image to view full screen)


Friday, April 10, 1998 Section: News Page: A1 BY GORDY HOLT and VANESSA HO P-I REPORTERS

His flight into [Tukwila] Boeing Field was Warren's final trip from Silverdale, where he lives, to a crane operator's job he'd just quit at a shipyard near Boeing Field. It wasn't the job he didn't like, said a co-worker, Dave Macomber. ``It was the commute.'' Yesterday that was longer than expected: The Cessna 150L Warren that used to commute in was snared by a high-voltage power line west of the airfield.
Warren spent the morning 60 feet above the ground hanging upside down in his seat belt while the Tukwila firefighters sent to rescue him made certain they didn't drop him on his head. Finally freed after his three-hour ordeal, Warren spent the early afternoon undergoing tests at Harborview Medical Center. But he emerged as he knew he would, in fine shape. Snagging the power line ``was definitely the weirdest experience'' of his flying career, Warren later told reporters. ``It felt like I'd hit the end of a bungee cord.'' As sparks lit up the sky, the aircraft hung for a moment, then tipped forward, then toppled to the left as the power line caught its right wheel - and held. Warren said he did not panic (``You just don't in these situations'') but turned his attention to the Boeing tower air controller he'd been talking with on his landing approach. ``I think I've got a situation here,'' Warren told her. ``Yeah, you're hanging by your wheel,'' she said. As his plane twisted gently in a light morning breeze, firefighters in a cherry-picker worked methodically to stabilize the plane and then carefully pluck Warren from the aircraft to safety.
The spectacle, which mesmerized a crowd of anxious onlookers, was not as frightening as it might have appeared, according to Warren. ``The worst of it was that seat belt,'' he said. ``When you hang there for three hours, your legs go numb.'' His thighs also were rubbed raw from the strap. ``I've got strawberries this wide across here,'' he said, sweeping a hand across his lap.
Kentucky bred and 47 years old (age), Warren has made a habit out of tricking fate. He lives in a home at Silverdale's Apex Air Park where he keeps two planes and is building a third. He shares his home with pilot Lee Oman, and for about a year the two of them have been building a custom racing plane. Warren also has been learning acrobatic flying from Oman, who flies like that for a living, said neighbor Gary Graves. Though a veteran heavy-equipment operator, Warren has been leaning toward aircraft. His weekends are devoted to flying. He thought nothing of cruising to Port Townsend or Harvey Airfield in Snohomish to visit friends or for what Graves describes as ``the $100 hamburger,'' when fuel costs are factored in. Warren had only one previous brush with danger in a plane, his neighbor said. On a landing in Kentucky several years ago, his Beechcraft Bonanza's landing gear collapsed. The pilot was unhurt, and bought another V-tailed Bonanza. David Brophy of Dave's Aircraft and Engine Machine Shop at Apex Air Park, said he has known Warren for about 20 years and frequently worked on his aircraft. He called Warren ``a very careful pilot,'' who holds an instrument rating, which allows him to fly in conditions where he has to rely on instruments instead of visual observation. ``He's a pretty good head. He is a real stable guy,'' said Brophy.

Ladder54 firefighter Rich Rees rescues pilot from the aircraft

View from the platform just prior to rescuing the pilot
(click image for larger view in another window)

Oman has had a more frightening mishap. In 1991, Warren helped rescue him after Oman fell from a biplane on which he was wing-walking at Hillsboro Airport near Portland. As a crowd watched Oman dangle by a nylon safety harness, Warren and another man stood in the bed of a speeding pickup truck, and raced down the runway. When the plane dropped low enough to reach Oman, Warren's partner cut him free and allowed him to drop into the truck. For the past three months, Warren has used his $18,000 Cessna 150L to commute from his home at Silverdale's private Apex Air Park about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. At Boeing Field he would pick up his car and drive to his job at Duwamish Shipyard on West Marginal Way. Not yesterday.
Warren does not know exactly what happened about 5:40 a.m. just seconds before touching down. This he does know: ``Somebody's looking after me.'' Warren said he was within 20 feet of the runway when the aircraft, on its own, rolled hard to the left. As he struggled to regain control, the plane veered away from the airfield, over Joyce Mayovsky in a parking lot near the air-traffic control tower. ``I was inside the lot, driving south along the fence when I saw (aircraft) lights passing low overhead. I thought it was funny. They were so low and not usually there,'' she said. ``All of a sudden the lights stopped and sparks were flying. I waited for a crash but there wasn't one. I was shaking so bad I just sat there.'' Experts say a cause for the Cessna's erratic behavior may never be know for certain, but there are suspicions. Warren suspects swirling air - vortices - caused by passing aircraft. Small aircraft are routinely warned away from large jet aircraft because of these conditions, but there were no large aircraft in the area early yesterday.
Smaller planes had been, though. ``I'd been told (by the tower on his approach) that aircraft had been in the area just a few minutes earlier, maybe three minutes,'' he said. ``I don't know what else it might be.'' Dick Sears, a consulting aeronautical engineer with Aviation Partners Inc. at Boeing Field, said such swirling air can be a produced by even a small aircraft. ``It was a very quiet morning. When the air is still like that, these swirls have been known to hang for minutes,'' Sears said. ``With no wind, they just kind of sit there and spin.'' Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tim Pile also gave credence to the pilot's suspicion. ``If that's what the pilot said, that's certainly something the investigator will check out.'' Pile said a National Transportation Safety Board investigator has been assigned to the case.
With Warren upside down and fuel leaking from the aircraft, firefighters worked frantically to stabilize the plane, then extricate its pilot. They first waited 2 1/2 hours for confirmation that the power was off in the line. The incident left 2,500 customers from South Dakota Street to East Marginal Way without power for several hours. Tukwila, Seattle and King County Airport fire departments all responded. Because the Cessna was leaking fuel - five to 10 gallons - firefighters sprayed a knee-deep layer of flame retardant foam on the ground under it. The airport shut off nearby fans and diverted heavy aircraft to minimize vibrations. Six firefighters on two ladder units wrapped nylon straps around the plane's propeller and fuselage and hung them from a pair of waiting cranes.
Then Tukwila firefighters trained in high-angle rescues, made their rescue approach on a ladder rig [ladder 54 LTI aerial platform], inching slowly toward an aircraft window. ``With a 2,000-pound plane swinging into the ladder truck, we could have a problem,'' Ewing said. Still buckled in his seat, Warren opened his left window, slid his legs into a harness and unclipped his seat belt. To the cheers and whistles of a crowd of Boeing workers, Warren slid carefully down the wing, stepped on a firefighter's leg for balance then onto the ladder platform. ``The firefighters did a good job,'' he said. The crane operators then retrieved his 1,600-pound Cessna 150L shortly after his rescue. First it was lowered to the ground, then righted and set gently down on its landing gear.
At Duwamish Shipyard Inc., Warren was one of three crane operators. Now there are two. Macomber, one of the two still on the job, said: ``A lot of crane operators are pilots. They like being in the action seat. To put it succinctly, he's a man of adventure. He's a fast-thinking, fast-talking kind of guy.'' Macomber said Warren has a quick wit, used to sell real estate, once ran a business exporting goods to Russia and is studying Russian.
Kyle McCleary, the shipyard's controller, said his office learned of Warren's predicament in a call from the airport tower. ``We might have an employee of yours up here,'' he described the tower worker as saying. Shortly before his shift would have ended yesterday, Warren dropped by to pick up his last paycheck, then went back to Boeing Field to inspect the Cessna. Macomber said Warren told him he was initially scared while hanging on the line, but eventually relaxed. ``He was fine. Here's a guy who loves cranes and airplanes and he's all rat-nested in the wires, surrounded by all the toys he loves in life.'' By all accounts, Jerry Michael ``Mike'' Warren is in love with flying, say friends. `He's pretty lucky,'' said Seattle Fire Chief Jim Sewell, who was on the scene to see if for himself. ``He should buy a lottery ticket today.''

P-I reporter Rob Taylor and researcher Lytton Smith contributed to this report.

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securing the aircraft prior to ladder54 performing the pilots rescue
Firefighters securing the airplane prior to performing rescue.

Newswire excerpts, click link to read entire story


Seattle Times - Rescuers, pilot kept their cool
......"Our greatest fear was if a gust of wind picked the plane up off the wire, where was it going to go?" They opened the door and talked to Anton, whom they later described as "in good spirits." "We said, `How are you?' " Ewing said. "He said he'd like to get out of there." Ewing and Rees instructed the pilot to put on a harness supplied by the firefighters before unclipping his seat belt. After he unsnapped his seat belt, Anton dropped to the roof of the cockpit, slid down the wing, onto Rees' leg and into the raised basket where the rescuers were standing. Then, applause........


Seattle Times - Wake Turbulence sometimes unavoidable, possibly deadly
......He descended eastward for the airport, then turned north into the wind just south of the control tower for a landing on 31 Left, the larger of Boeing Field's two parallel runways......
.......The plane was snagged by the wires as if by a bungee cord, Anton said. "There were a couple of big fireballs" as the wires shorted out. The plane sprung back and then came to rest upside down, hanging by a wheel.....


Operating the aerial platform from the turntable during the rescue was firefighter and ladder54 member Randy Edwards.


The firefighter / rescuers are all part of Tukwila's Special Operations Rescue Team and are trained for high-angle and rope rescues such as this. They are also trained to technician or expert level in Confined Space Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, Trench Rescue, Structural Collapse Rescue, and technician levels for Machinery and Transportation Emergencies Rescues.

The Simon LTI aerial platform fire truck enabled the firefighter / rescuers to reach the pilot with maximum safety during the rescue.


Close-up of Firefighter Rich Rees  bringing the pilot into Ladder54's platform
Close up view of firefighter and final moments of the rescue at over 6 stories above the ground. The pilot is brought into Ladder54's aerial platform by firefighter.

(Click on image for larger view in another window)




For more information or details about the tukwila fire department rescue team contact the rescue team leader

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