An unusual event interrupted my pottering about in the garden yesterday. I was in the middle of cat proofing my ‘square foot gardening‘ vegetable patches, surrounded by chicken wire, tools and the odd sprog, when I heard a sound one normally only hears in films.
Buuuur-bup-bup-bup … buuuur-bup-bup-bup … phut-phut-bup…
I looked up and saw a small jump plane tracking low across the clouds and blue sky above the township and seemingly trailing smoke from one engine. It was making the kind of noise that came from Ginger’s Spitfire shortly before he ‘pranged his kite’ in those ‘how the RAF won the war’ black and white movies of my childhood. A few seconds later, four skydivers exited the plane in close order, opening their canopies almost instantaneously while the plane lazily turned west. Shouting for the sprogs to come and see and grabbing the camera from the kitchen counter, I returned to snap a few shots, rationalising that I had obviously got it wrong and the smoke was simply vapour trail (unlikely at that low altitude in this warm weather) or a skydiver’s cannister that had malfunctioned in the plane (very unlikely but still possible). As I clicked away, I was aware of the noise again.
Buuuur-bup-bup-bup … phut-phut-bup…[silence]
Abrupt silence – never a good thing when flying I suspect, except in gliders maybe. As the skydivers slipped from view and into the paddock behind the local pub, I wondered whether I should dial 111. I didn’t. Well, for one, I wasn’t sure of what I had just seen – was it a plane in trouble or simply throttling back to reduce the prop wash for the skydivers? Did jump plane pilots have parachutes? There’d be a loud explosion if the plane had crashed, surely?
Later, at the school firework display, which the whole township attends, the jungle telegraph was in overdrive – the skydivers were rehearsing for a pre-display jump when the plane got into trouble. The pilot managed to walk away from a landing that left his plane upside down amongst the vines in a local vineyard. Not one to miss a trick, the head teacher raffled some of that vineyard’s latest output as ‘plane crash vintage, never to be tasted again as ten rows of the vines have been totalled by the plane!’
A write up and video report of TVNZ’s version of what they’re inevitably calling ‘The Grape Escape’ can be seen here.