Pilot owes his life to Biggles after crashing plane into a tree... then walking away

Posted on 7:26 AM by Sameer Shah

It might not look like a text-book landing. But the pilot who crashed this plane into the branches of a towering tree says he owes his life to fiction. Vince Hagedorn, who amazingly walked away from the wreckage, put his survival down to the fictional fighter and adventurer Biggles. Despite the blood streaming from his forehead, he left the scene with a wide smile spread across his face.

Mr Hagedorn carried out an unorthodox 'pancake' manoeuvre to land in the tree at Dundee's Caird Park Golf Course yesterday afternoon when he realised he was going to crash land after running out of fuel. He confessed he had read about the move in a book about the World War I hero decades ago - and paid tribute to its author for saving his life.

Mr Hagedorn, 63, from Chelmsford, Essex, said: 'Captain W E Johns saved my life. As a boy, I remember reading a Biggles story where he was shot down while flying over a wooded area. 'He managed to "pancake" the plane sideways into a tree, which minimised the impact, and he walked away unscathed.

In the moments before impact, I was doing about 70 knots and still managed to think, "What would Biggles do?".'

Business consultant Mr Hagedorn - who spoke to wife Carole, 58, by phone in the ambulance - was taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee but had suffered only bruised ribs and a gash to the head. His two-seater Flight Design CTSW struck the tree on the 15th hole. It took fire crews and ambulance staff an hour to free him using a series of ladders and pulleys. Mr Hagedorn, who has four years' flying experience, said: 'I left Barrow-in-Furness in the morning and was heading for RAF Kinloss, where I had been cleared to land, to visit my daughter Maggie in Lossiemouth. 'I was just north of Dundee when I checked my fuel gauge and it said it was half-full, but when I checked the wing gauges, one said it was empty and the other said I had only half-an-hour left of flying. 'I looked for somewhere to land and saw the golf course. I couldn't land on the fairway because there were too many trees, so I lined up the tree and did what Biggles did, stalled and "pancaked" into it.' A spokesman for Dundee Airport said: 'The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been notified.'

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