Frantisek Pospisil: one morning on an airfield in the 1930s

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Franticek Pospisil 1935

Both my father and I owe our existence to one young man’s quick thinking and luck on the morning of March 31, 1937 (or perhaps 1936).  Below is a translation of the clipping pictured at the bottom of the page:

Crew of burning plane: Courageous landing at Olomovc Airport

At Olomovc Airport on the 31st of March, 19 witnesses described the fearless courage and skill of training plane pilot Lieutenant Frantisek Pospisil and his observer Corporal Josef Pipal.

The training plane took off before 10am that morning, and circled about nine hundred feet above Olomovc airport in heavy winds. Lieutenant Frantisek Pospisil noticed the lower part of the engine was on fire, and as the flames reached the cockpit burning his face and hands, the lieutenant stayed at his controls landing the plane in a nearby field next to the cemetery on Nova Street.

Within seconds of landing he managed to untangle himself , and only his quick reaction in a margin of two or three seconds, were factors that saved him and Corporal Pipal from a horrifying death.

Almost immediately both Lieutenant Pospisil and Corporal Pipal tried to stop the fire from spreading, even after the explosion of the fuel tank, but the task was beyond all hope. Even parts of the metal structure were burning. Immediately they were surrounded by crowds of onlookers willing to help save the plan, but it was beyond salvage.

After an accident debriefing, Lieutenant Pospisil returned to his headquarters, with his face and hand bandaged, he sent for his lunch, refusing to talk to anyone about the accident, expressing only how sorry he was to loose his beautiful plane.

The whole event did not change his attitude towards flying, he said, and he would resume his duties in a few days. His cheerful disposition reinforced the impression of a brave and dedicated pilot. There were no signs to indicate that just a short time ago he had only just escaped a very unpleasant death.

The partly burnt parachutes of both flyers were torn to small pieces by other pilots as good luck charms. The case of the fire is under army investigation.



Incidentally, I never met grandfather Pospisil, he died in the 1940s at a relatively young age, but it sounds like he must have been quite an interesting character.