Pilot recounts mid-air crash with another glider over Little Paxton

A glider crashed into a field near Little Paxton. Picture: CAMBS FIRE AND RESCUE. A glider crashed into a field near Little Paxton. Picture: CAMBS FIRE AND RESCUE.

Friday, August 8, 2014
9:16 AM

A pilot has relived the moment another glider crashed into him at 4,500ft, forcing him to parachute out ... only to land in the path of a combine harvester.

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Andrew Preston was taking part in a competition from Husband Bosworth on Saturday, July 26, and was flying near Little Paxton when he was struck by another competitor. The 70-year-old, who has been gliding for 20 years after his wife bought him lessons for his birthday, told The Hunts Post: “We are given a triangle route to follow and the aim is to fly it the fastest. I was just approaching the second turn at Oakington when the other glider crashed into me.

“We didn’t see each other, there really was a crunch. I only saw the other glider a fraction before the impact which tipped the glider up.

“My first thought was how to get out. It took me a second or two to gather my thoughts and open the canopy. Then I pulled the buckle that released me and, because the glider was upside down, I just fell out.

“Having fallen out I pulled the operating cable from the parachute which thankfully worked smoothly and I spent two or three minutes floating down. Because I was falling slower than the glider, bits of it came perilously close to me but they missed.”

The Banbury Gliding Club member, from Milton Keynes, added: “We only have emergency parachutes which have only one task, so the landing was a bit rough, like falling from 12 to 15 feet. As they are basic, you can’t control where you go. I was looking around and saw the A1, Little Paxton, the field and some power lines which cause a lot of problems if you get caught up in them and I happened to land smack in front of a combine harvester.

“Because I’m a farmer, I know that the driver would have been concentrating on the top of the blade and not what was in front of them so I moved to where it already was harvested and it went straight past me.

“The farmer in the wheat collector behind was very helpful and gave me his phone and some water.”

Mr Preston was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, with a cut to his leg and a sore back and neck. He stayed in overnight and doctors rang him at home to say he had broken a vertebrae.

“It’s going to take about six weeks to heal but after that I expect to be flying again,” Mr Preston said.

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