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Pilot lands MiG while it's burning

Published Mar. 3, 1994|Updated Oct. 6, 2005

A stunt pilot brought a flaming MiG-17 jet in for an emergency landing, parked it on the tarmac and ran for his life as firefighters doused the blazing aircraft.

Bill Reesman, a former U.S. Air Force jet pilot, had just put his plane through a practice corkscrew climb over the Aurora Airport when it burst into flames Tuesday.

"I felt an explosion in the tail of the aircraft and the flight controls started vibrating pretty badly," said Reesman, 53. "There were 40-foot flames coming out of the left side of the fuselage."

Reesman worried about the aircraft smashing into someone's house at 300 mph with a full load of 400 gallons of jet fuel.

So he rode the jet, trailing flames all the way, to the landing field where dozens of onlookers had gathered and where his air show company is based.

"It'd just be nice if people wouldn't get so dang close," said Assistant Fire Chief Fred Netter, whose crews were on the job in minutes with fire-suppressant foam.

Reesman said he "didn't feel a thing" during his latest brush with death. "I spent 20 years as a fighter pilot _ flew 320 missions over Vietnam," he said.

Reesman bought his MiG in 1992 for $150,000. He was getting it ready for a round of summer air shows in the United States, Canada and Mexico.


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