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A-10 pilot miraculously lands Thunderbolt after gun malfunctions, canopy blows off & landing gear fails

August 16, 2017

Capt. Brett DeVries of the Michigan Air National Guard recently survived a number of malfunctions to safely land his A-10 Thunderbolt II.

DeVries, a pilot with the 107th Fighter Squadron, was training to drop dummy bombs and conduct strafe runs with his wingman Maj. Shannon Vickers and two other A-10s over Michigan’s Grayling Air Gunnery Range when  a “donut of gas” enveloped his gun and aircraft on July 20, according to Vickers.

The malfunction caused the A-10’s canopy to blow while flying at roughly 375 miles per hour.

“It was like someone sucker punched me,” DeVries recalled in a report. “I was just dazed for a moment.”

At only 150 feet in the air at the time, DeVries instinctively climbed up in altitude to 2,000 feet to put space between his aircraft and the ground. He then lowered his seat to take cover from the wind. After assessing the damage, the blown canopy had also damaged the bottom of the aircraft.

DeVries also worried about the safety of the ejection seat, as he thought it could possibly fail because the canopy had been blown off.

Both Vickers and DeVries determined that the best course of action was to fly to the Alpena Airfield and make an emergency landing.

With two primary radios cut out, DeVries had to rely on his third system while communicating with technicians on the ground who were making recommendations.

DeVries pushed down on the lever to lower the landing gear, only to find out that the nose gear was hung up from the gun damage. Vickers shouted “Gear Up” to DeVries so that he could return the landing gear to the “up” position.

“I just thought, ‘There is no way this is happening right now.’ It all was sort of surreal, but at the same time, we were 100 percent focused on the task ahead of us,” Vickers said.

DeVries managed to make a shallow and slow landing, coming out of the incident unscathed.

“Capt. DeVries’ skills as a pilot were put to the test in this incident,” said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, 127th Wing Commander. “He demonstrated not only superior skill as a pilot but remained calm in an extremely challenging situation. To walk away from this scenario with no injuries is a true testament to his abilities as a world-class fighter pilot.”