Piper Twin Loses Instruments, But A-10 Pilot Helps Out

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The pilot of an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt helped guide a pair of pilots in a Piper light twin to a safe landing after their radios and instruments failed in the clouds over Germany, Stars & Stripes reported on Tuesday. Twenty minutes after taking off from The Netherlands on Nov. 15, an electrical wire in the Piper Chieftain broke. Pilot Naim Fazlija and co-pilot Artan Berisha, who had five passengers on board heading for Switzerland, used a handheld radio to send a Mayday to German air traffic controllers. Minutes later, controllers sent help: a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt piloted by Maj. Peter Olson. "It just pops out of the clouds and I was like, 'Wow, incredible,'" Berisha told Stars & Stripes. "Seeing that aircraft come up to us, it was like Jesus Christ came back. It felt really, really good." Olson, an A-10 weapons tactics officer with the 52nd Fighter Wing based at Spangdahlem Air Base, and another pilot were about 30 miles east of Hahn Airport on a midafternoon routine training mission when controllers asked for help. The Piper pilots, who were about 25 miles south-southeast of the airport, had no navigational capability. "After I found them, I just kind of went up next to them and I talked to them on the [handheld] radio. I said, 'Hey, I'm here to help. I want you to follow behind me and I'll take you into Hahn.'" The planes flew as close as 50 feet apart, at about 140 knots. "I spent a lot of time looking for him because we'd go into a cloud and I'd lose sight of him and he'd lose sight of me," Olson said. "I'd be worried that he would possibly bump into me." Berisha and Fazlija, who both worked for the U.S. military as translators in Kosovo before becoming pilots, safely landed the plane at Hahn. They stayed two days until the electrical problem was fixed and then flew to Switzerland. Berisha was impressed with Olson. "He was an awesome pilot," he said. "He was great." Fazlija, who owns the plane and transports mostly corporate passengers, said even though he has a lot of flying experience, the incident was nerve-racking. "Of course, I was afraid," he said. "It was possible you could crash. You don't know 100 percent it will be OK."