Shawn Kinmartin is a skydiver plane pilot, but until Saturday, the only time the 21-year-old stepped out of his plane was when both wheels were on the ground. Over the weekend, that all changed when Kinmartin was forced to abandon his aircraft and parachute to the ground.
The pilot for Fly Free Skydiving, based out of Festus, Illinois, ran into trouble after making an afternoon skydiving run – his fourth of the day. Kinmartin said that the last two jumpers struck plane’s elevator, causing the Cessna 182 to lose airspeed and maneuverability.
“The two skydivers jumped out, they were the last two I had in my airplane,” he said. “The last skydiver, on his way out, struck the elevator of the aircraft.”
On his fourth flight of the day taking jumpers up, Kinmartin was cruising at 11,500 feet over eastern Missouri and southern Illinois when he realized that his final skydiving client had damaged a key piece of gear while jumping out of the plane. During the jump, the skydiver struck the elevator of the aircraft, a part of a plane's tail that controls its ability to climb and descent.
After about ten minutes of struggling at the controls to keep the plane steady, Kinmartin said he knew that it was going to crash. Fortunately, the young pilot said he was already wearing a parachute, as mandated by the company, and abandoned the plane over a soybean field.
“When I jumped out of the airplane, it was at 2,000 feet – so I only had 1,500 feet to the ground,” he said. “And when I jumped out of the airplane, it spiraled and crashed into the field over there. The wing carried me and I landed on this soybean field over there.”
Kinmartin said he made the right choice. There was no way he could have landed the plane.
“The plane is completely destroyed,” he added. “If I was inside the plane when it crashed the way it did I wouldn't be standing here.”