The Pilot Who Survived After Falling Out of His Plane

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The Pop-Tart Whisperer
Feb 19, 2007
Southern New Jersey
Propitious Pilot


NORMAN, Okla. -- Are you a superstitious person? How did your day go on Friday the thirteenth? Whether you believe in good luck or scientific probabilities you'll want to pay attention to this story about one veteran Air Force pilot's very lucky day.

It's not until he watches and old movie or reads someone else's stories of combat that Fred Seals pauses to consider what might have happened to him over the course of piloting 25 bombing missions during World War II.

"The mortality rate was 75 percent," Seals says, or from the winter day in 1952 when he proved to be one of the luckiest men in the history of aviation.

"I don't know whether you accept death or not," says former Air Force Captain Seals with conviction. "But you accept the circumstances."

Fred was already a pilot before the Big War. He flew B-17's over Germany until they surrendered. He came home; he got married, then he never expected his call up for Korea. He went anyway and flew supply missions in a Curtis C-46 Commando.

"We went up there every other Monday," recalls Seals, of his regular trips to a radar base north of the DMZ.

His orders were to re-supply a radar base in North Korea on a very blustery day.

"And we'd go in at about 400 feet and kick the stuff out," Seals explains.

The crew was supposed to push pallets out the side door. They became air sick. Seals gave his controls to his co-pilot and went back to help. That's when something very bad should have happened.

"What happened? Well the airplane dropped and fishtailed," says Seals as he demonstrates with his hands.

"Well I'm in mid-air and it just went out from under me," Seals says.

For a split second Seals saw the ground below. Then just as suddenly he was back inside the aircraft.

"I say it was a nano-second. I don't know how long it was, but the airplane came back under me then, and I fell on my hands and knees confused."

Thus he became the only man in aviation history to fall out of an airplane and fall right back in again.

"I wasn't supposed to be there," he says, still with some amazement. "I was supposed to be on the ground. I can't figure the chances."

Ask Fred Seals if he's a lucky man and he won't necessarily point out the one instance when he needed it the most. He'll mention his health at 85, his wife, his kids and grandkids too, but an answer to the question is always yes.

"I was lucky there, more than lucky," Seals says.
In Norman I'm Galen Culver for NewsChannel 4. Is this a great state or what!

Seals also flew the Berlin airlift and during the Vietnam era. He moved to Norman in 1958 and now edits a B-17 veteran's newsletter called 'Bombs Away.'

History News Network

Chris Vaughn, in the Houston Chronicle (7-31-05):

On a bone-chilling, miserably windy day in 1952, Capt. Fred C. Seals Jr. fell out of his airplane.

Right out the side of the C-46 Commando.

Four hundred feet above the snow-covered ground in the middle of the Korean War.

Improbably, Seals lived to tell the tale. The story has been retold on "Ripley's Believe It or Not," and to this day, old men stop him and ask if it is true.

Seals lived because he fell right back into the plane.

"There's many a time I've thought, 'Why in the Sam Hill am I here?' " he said. "By the grace of God."

Nearly forgotten

The story of this Texas native is so bizarre that only the most gullible listener could ever believe a shred of it. But the amazed crew told their commanders, who told Air Force information officers, who told reporters.

Seals is 83, a retired colonel and wing commander who makes his home in Norman, Okla.

A 1944 graduate of Texas A&M University, he saw three wars from the front row - as a B-17 pilot over Germany during World War II, as a recalled pilot for the Korean War and as a cargo pilot flying out of Da Nang during the Vietnam War.

But he will always be known for a mission in March 1952 in South Korea while trying to resupply troops.

The story might have slipped into the recesses of weird history, except for an Air Force veteran who recently donated his newspaper collection to Don Pyeatt, a Fort Worth man who serves as historian of the B-36 Peacemaker Museum group.

"I spent a day scanning them," Pyeatt said. "That article was included on the edge of another one. It caught my eye. What a story."

Denis Barnham hallucinated he was standing on the wing of his Spitfire, watching himself trying to tear his oxygen mask off. See "One Man's Window," Kimber 1956; NEL 1975.
That dude might as well never play the lottery for the rest of his life. He's used up all his luck.
Flyboy, I think he hit a mountain covered in snow which cushioned his fall along with some cedar trees, I'll look and see if I can find it.
The highest ever free fall without parachute was Air hostess Vesna Vulovic, of Yugoslavia, fell 33,330 feet into a snowbound forest in Serbska Kamenice, Czechoslovakia on January 26, 1972 when the DC-9 airliner she was on exploded.

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