The pilot who miraculously dodged death by parachuting out of a mid-air collision said even he has trouble believing his story of survival.
“If you would have told me I’d done what I did, I probably wouldn’t believe it,” the pilot, Matt Fandler, told NBC News in an interview to be broadcast on “Dateline” Friday at 8 p.m.
Fandler’s face is still covered in cuts from when his Cessna loaded with skydivers collided with a second plane full of jumpers at around 12,000 feet, destroying the windshield and sending glass flying into the cabin.
All nine skydivers and both pilots survived. The insane ordeal above Superior, Wisc. was all captured on skydivers’ helmet cams.
Matt Fandler was the pilot of the doomed skydiving plane when it was struck by another plane 12,000 feet above the ground in Wisconsin.
When Fandler touched down after a rough landing with an emergency parachute he decided to immortalize the moment with — what else? — a selfie.
“I didn’t have a mirror or anything, so I asked the police officer if he wanted to take a photo of me,” Fandler said.
“He gave me a really weird look, so I decided to take it myself.”
In addition to his sliced-up face, Fandler would need 25 stitches on his hands.
Parachuters poured from the wrecked plane.
The incredible crash occurred moments before the skydivers were about to jump.
The collision knocked off one of the wing’s Fandler’s plane, and created a fireball that illuminated the skydivers as they literally threw caution to the wind.
As the plane went into an “uncontrolled descent” Fandler thought to himself, “I need to regain control of this airplane.
“I immediately pulled the yoke back to my chest and pulled it back as far as I possibly could. And there was no reaction from the airplane.”
A still shot of the horrific moment the two planes slammed into each other.
“I began to pick up more and more airspeed. And I realize that I have no control of this aircraft. And probably thought it was in my best interest to not be in this aircraft.”
Fandler decided to bail out, and caught a glimpse of the plane careening towards earth as he tried to follow all the guidelines he’d learned in only two previous jumps — under decidedly less stressful circumstances.
Despite his lack of experience he landed only 50 feet from the runway he was aiming for.
Shortly thereafter he saw the pilot of the other plane, Blake Wedan, pull off his own miracle landing with the damaged Cessna.
Fandler said the crash hadn’t deterred his enthusiasm for taking to the skies.
“I really feel confident in my ability to be safe as a pilot. And I know what I can control. And I know what I cannot control,” he said.