This Air Force pilot had to think fast when a critical moment happened while he was flying his aircraft over Michigan's Grayling Air Gunnery Range during a routine training run.
Captain Brett DeVries was 150 feet off the ground when he noticed a "donut of gas" envelope his gun and aircraft. His 30 mm gun of his A-10 misfired at the same moment his entire canopy blew off the aircraft.
The commotion of the blown canopy also damaged the bottom of the aircraft too.
Once the canopy blew off, the pilot was exposed to 325 knot winds as he tried to figure out what to do next. The winds slammed into his chest and overtook his helmet until instinct kicked in and he lowered his seat as far back as it would go to offer him some protection from the elements.
"It was like someone sucker punched me," he said. "I was just dazed for a moment."
That's when DeVries worked to control the aircraft and climb to a higher altitude.
Inside the cockpit, DeVries wanted to run through his checklists, but without the canopy that proved to be impossible.
“There was paper everywhere. And I was afraid to open up my emergency checklist, because I knew that would just blow away and maybe get sucked into an engine,” he said.
That's when he began to run over his options.
Could he eject? It was unclear if the damage had also damaged the ejection seat.
Could he land? With the damage to the landing gear, it made it impossible to go in for a normal landing.
With no other option, he had to do something he didn't know was possible.
“I just thought, ‘there is no way this is happening right now,’” Major Shannon Vickers, his wingman who was in the air with him at the time, said.
DeVries and Vickers made the 25 minute flight back to the runway where the pilots discussed their options.
That's when they decided their best option was to "belly-land" the plane with no landing gear or canopy overhead.
DeVries came in shallow and slow as he landed the aircraft safely on the ground. He exited the damaged Warthog on his own.
“In this case, the training took over and it is what made the difference.”