An old steak knife and a cool head in a crisis enabled Lisa Strathern to save the lives of two parachutists when their gear caught on the wheel strut of their Cessna drop plane over Caboolture, Queensland.
To build up hours for her commercial airline licence, the young pilot was flying parachutists when the freak mishap occurred. At 10,000-feet two parachutists ready for a tandem jump slid from the plane’s door - and one harness strap snagged on the small step mounted on the wheel strut.
Lisa put the aircraft into a series of steep turns to try and free them, but this failed. The dangling instructor made eye contact and signaled to her to cut the harness with a knife.
‘The planes are supposed to carry knives, but this was a replacement aircraft and didn’t have one. The eerie thing was that, only a week earlier my boss noticed this and put an old steak knife aboard. I suddenly remembered this,’ she recalls.
With great presence of mind Lisa maneuvered the plane into a shallow descent to keep it stable as it had no auto pilot and left the pilot’s seat. One hand still on the controls, she sat on the floor and began to saw through the harness. A dozen good cuts set the parachutists free and they floated safely to earth.
Through her composure, courage and skill Lisa averted a tragic accident and received the Bravery Medal which is awarded for acts of courage in hazardous circumstances.
Australian Bravery Decorations recognise acts of bravery by members of the Australian community who put themselves in jeopardy to protect the lives or property of others.