"The Whole Lot Was On Fire" -- Pilot Lands, Alive

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An Australian crop-duster said he was only trying to save his own skin when he landed his burning aircraft, by memory, on a dirt strip near Deniliquin, New South Wales, last week. "I was just interested in getting out," Fred Clipperton told a hospital spokeswoman in Deniliquin. "I just flew her down. I switched her off and got out." But apparently Clipperton is as gifted at understatement as he is at flying. According to witnesses, the only part of the plane not on fire when it landed was the tail and it didn't last much longer. It appears that fuel leaking from an improperly placed fuel cap was ignited by the exhaust as the plane took off from the dirt strip. Clipperton heeled the plane around but by the time he could line up on the runway the flames and smoke obscured his view. A glimpse of a road and power line were his only visual cues as he set up and put the plane back on the runway. "The whole lot was on fire bar his tail wing," said witness John Dargan. Clipperton was able to jump out of the plane and run away before the first helpers arrived. He suffered minor burns. His employer, Nigel Wettenhall, said Clipperton has more than 30,000 hours in crop-dusters.