For years I've had the pleasure of photographing the amazing feats of pilots at various Airshows in the United States. I'm always amazed at the precision and skill of those maneuvering their craft with technical mastery. Of course with aircrafts that pass each other at hundreds of miles per hour just inches apart, and planes being pushed to the very limit, there is always the chance of danger. Thankfully, I've never witnessed any accidents, and I hope I never do.
When I saw this video, chills crept up my spine. As reported by AV WEB "Kyle and Amanda Franklin, a young husband and wife aerobatic and wingwalking team, were seriously injured after the Waco Mystery Ship they use in their routine caught fire in flight during a performance at the Brownsville/South Padre Island Air Fiesta Saturday. The Brownsville Herald reports Amanda Franklin was on the wing of the Waco "Mystery Ship" when fire erupted from the engine at low altitude, all of which is visible in video shot by a member of the audience. Amanda was able to get into a seat while her husband made the best of a very bad situation as the aircraft came down in a wooded area and burned. Emergency crews responded almost immediately, apparently while the aircraft was still coming down. They arrived and drove through the shorter brush to douse the flames. Kyle's worst injuries may have been suffered while trying to remove his wife from flames in the forward cockpit. Amanda was more seriously burned."
In researching their condition, I found this quote from Matt Younkin (Amanda's brother):
"All, Please forward this letter on to who ever you see fit...
Good morning all. Let me first express on behalf of Amanda, Kyle, Myself and both of our families so many thanks for all of your prayers and well wishes. We are all so fortunate to have such a wonderful support network in all of you. We are still waiting for updates and it could be many hours, days, or weeks before we know exactly how the recovery process will play out between Amanda and Kyle. I can however report that Kyle was not injured and or burned as badly as reported earlier by the media and is expected to make a full and rapid recovery. I can also say that the updates we are receiving on Amanda are increasingly optimistic and though she has a long road of recovery ahead of her, the doctors are giving us the impression that things are not as bad as first reported and her chances for a full recovery are getting better not worse. The first 24 hours will set the tone for the story ahead.
I also have to extend a very sincere thanks to my brother-in-law Kyle who I strongly credit for the fact that my little sister is still with us. Having witnessed the accident and being on of the first on the scene, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he made no less than five quick decisions in the air and on the ground that gave her a second chance at life!! When the engine quit, Amanda was on the top wing in the rack. Kyle continued to fly the airplane in a straight and level fashion as long as he could to give Amanda every opportunity to unstrap and get into the front cockpit where she would have the best chance in the event of a hard landing. He also resisted the tendency to turn for the pavement which typically induces a fatal stall/spin situation. He avoided a landing in the pyro field which could have proven to be fatal, and faced with the only other option of land in mesquite woods, Kyle landed into the wind drastically reducing the forward speed at impact. Upon reaching the scene, I noticed that he set the airplane down in the only Waco sized piece of ground in that dense woods that didn't have tall trees in it. Kyle sustained the majority of his burns trying to pull his wife from the wreckage and when his efforts produced no results, he stayed in the cockpit and transmitted a repeating distress call about the post impact fire that had started. I honestly believe this motivated the rapid responders to press through the brush and douse the airplane at a more rapid rate which meant the split second difference that saved Amanda, who was still in the plane. The first responders on the scene did an excellent job of responding to the situation in a rapid manner. Having a professional air boss teamed up with professional CFR personnel made a world of difference that could be the single most important factor that both Amanda and Kyle are still with us. Please continue to send your thoughts and prayers this direction because we sincerely believe they are helping. I will pass updates along as I receive them."
Please join me in wishing Kyle and Amanda a speedy recovery.