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Pilot in Duxford Mid-Air: 'We're both very fortunate'

July 11, 2011 – A pilot who parachuted safely to the ground moments before his World War II warbird crashed to the ground told the BBC that the mid-air collision with another warbird was “A simple error of judgment” and that “We’re both very fortunate in that we got away with our lives.” Rob Davies, who owned the P-51D Big Beautiful Doll for 15 years, and Jean Baptiste Salis, pilot and owner of a Douglas A-1D Skyraider, survived the mid-air last Sunday during the Flying Legends Air Show at the former RAF Duxford in Cambridgeshire, England.

“It was an extremely loud impact which I could hear above the noise of the engine in my headset,” Davies said. “And the aircraft was violently thrown onto its side. Professionalism kicks in and you deal with the situation…in this case, to save your life.”

After the collision, which video appears to show the Skyraider’s right wing impacting the Mustang’s tail, the Mustang “fishtailed.” Davies was able to regain control long enough to stabilize the aircraft and bailed out as it was nosing down, just moments before disappearing behind terrain. The Skyraider was able to make a successful emergency landing, despite losing a large portion of its right wing.

“Normally if there’s a problem you wouldn’t bail out below 1,000 feet to give the parachute time to open fuller,” Davies told the BBC. “I got out at extremely low level, but then the motivation was extremely high.”

That both pilots emerged virtually unscathed was a miracle, said Davies’ daughter, Gina Schuurman. See the embedded video below.

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