Juanca Pranged His Bally Kite

Monday, September 5, 2011
By Editor

Juan Carlos posing for the Seaside Gazette

Or if you would prefer it in plain English, instead of RAF WW2 banter: Juan Carlos Gomez, Infoca pilot based near the Pantano de Bermejales, crash landed his aeroplane after hitting a cable.

Back in the summer of 2008, the Seaside Gazette did a detailed article on the Infoca base in La Resinera (Arenas del Rey) and had the chance to interview Juan Carlos, as he posed next to his fixed wing  Airtronic 802F. This 48-year-old pilot, who has helped to fight forest fires from the air in Northern Africa, Chile, as well as Spain, has been doing the job that he loves for the last 25 years.

He won’t be too happy about his trashed sky tractor, as they are known, because he dotes on it, but he is determined to patch himself up and get back to flying, which is something that he and his wife, Beatriz, live for, as she is a female instructor at a Sevilla-based flying school.

Of the accident, he remembers swooping down on the flames but as he came out the other side he hit a cable – near-invisible killers. The cable snared the propeller shaft and the aircraft banked, out of control, to the right. The rudder wouldn’t respond and in the few seconds before he hit the ground, he cut the engine and pulled back on the stick to lose speed and dropped the flaps.

The next thing that he knew, he was the right way up but the aircraft was burning, he undid his straps and he fell to the ground, managing to crawl to a safe distance because he thought that the machine might blow up.

The first person to arrive was Ricardo, a friend and owner of the nearby camping installations, because he hit the ground in a field bordering the reservoir. Before long, however, many of the Infoca team had turned up with an ambulance.

It’s a very tight team at the Resina base, where everybody knows that their life depends on the other; from the radio operator to the bowser drivers, from the ‘foot soldiers’ to the pilots, be they fixed-wing of the type that Juanca flies, or any one of the helicopters.

Juanca (Juan Carlos) explained that you can see trees and mountains when you are flying low, but what you cannot see are the bloody cables, because the pylons aren’t painted in vivid colours to stand out and some cables stretch from one hill top to another with no warning balls on them or anything to mark their presence.

Finally, Juan Carlos could have ejected, as this aircraft has an ejector seat fitted, but he chose to stay with it and attempted a crash landing, as he was only 300 metres from the camp site when he hit the ground.

Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery and a quick return to duty, although with the end of summer in sight, it won’t be until next summer, no doubt.

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(News: Arenas del Rey, Granada, Andalucia)

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