Royal Air Force Lt. Ian Fortune, 28, lived up to his name when he pulled off the feat, witnesses said.
“The aircraft controls were damaged. It was a lot of trouble to keep us in the air,” said British TV host Mike Brewer, who was on board the helicopter to film a series for the Discovery Channel.
“I spoke to the co-pilot later. He said Ian would not let go of the controls,” Brewer said. “Even with blood pouring into his eyes, he would not let go.”
The incident occurred about three weeks ago, but details of the heroic landing are just surfacing.
During a routine flight in southern Helmand province, Fortune and his co-pilot were carrying several injured Afghan soldiers along with Brewer, his crew and a handful of British troops.
Brewer was doing a story on Fortune’s helicopter, a relic of the Falklands War and the oldest Chinook in Britain’s fledgling fleet of aircraft operating in Afghanistan.
The Chinook landed in the middle of a firefight.
“There was a battle going on,” Brewer said.
He said he heard Fortune say he was shot in the face and frantic “Mayday! Mayday!” calls were shouted over the radio.
“I was thinking it was the end of my days and I was about to plummet to my death,” Brewer recalled on CNN.
Fortune’s helmet prevented the bullet from injuring him more severely, and he was able to fly to nearby Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand province.
British officials declined to comment on the incident and said Fortune was not speaking publicly about it. It’s still unclear why the details of the emergency landing were not disclosed until several weeks after it happened.
Brewer said his documentary, scheduled to air in May, would not be released until later this year.
Source: Stephanie Gaskell for The N.Y. Daily News.