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Pilot, Sucked Out of Plane, Hangs Tight Till Landing

September 03, 1987|From Times Wire Services

PORTLAND, Me. — A commuter pilot was sucked partway out of his plane and clung to the craft's outside staircase for about 10 minutes until the co-pilot made an emergency landing, an airline spokesman said today.

Eastern Express pilot Henry Dempsey, 45, of Cape Elizabeth, suffered only cuts and bruises and was treated at a hospital and released, said Steven Mason, sales manager for the airline.

The accident occurred Wednesday at about 8 p.m. during a flight without passengers from Lewiston to Boston.

The aircraft was about five miles outside the airport, several thousand feet in the air, when Dempsey noticed a passenger door ajar, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Susan Coulter and Portland police said.

Dempsey was trying to close the door when he apparently was sucked out of the open hatch, authorities said.

The co-pilot of the plane asked for permission to make an emergency landing at the Portland Jetport--believing his partner had plunged to his death, officials said.

An emergency crew that met the plane when it landed found Dempsey clinging to the aircraft's outside stairs, and the pilot had to be "pried off," the Portland Press Herald said today, quoting an air traffic controller who asked to remain anonymous. Dempsey had held on to the outside of the plane for about 10 minutes, the controller said.

One federal official, who asked not to be identified, said Dempsey probably did not have trouble breathing while outside the plane because of its relatively low altitude, but he expressed surprise the pilot had survived.

"I would think it would be impossible to hold on at that speed. It would take iron nerves and strong muscles," the official said.

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