A U.S. Air Force airman serving with a special operations unit is missing after he accidentally fell out of a transport plane into the Gulf of Mexico. The airman was last seen “treading water”. “Dozens” of U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard airplanes and helicopters are reportedly searching an area south of Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The incident took place last night when an airman from the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field Florida fell out of a C-130 cargo plane ten miles off the coast of Florida.
Coast Guard Mobile Sector spokesman Juston Lee told CNN that the missing staff sergeant deployed his parachute and fell about 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, he said. His name and age have not been released.
Air Force Magazine reports the airman, “was participating in a static-line jump as part of a training event when he exited the aircraft about four miles south of Hurlburt.”
The crew has been searching in the 700 square-mile area off the coast of the Panhandle between Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola.
It is not clear what caused the missing airman to fall from the aircraft. The airman’s identity was not released by the Air Force, which only identified him as a staff sergeant. It is not clear what the missing airman’s role was, if any, in the jump exercise.
A static-line jump is a parachute jump that involves a “static line” that runs from a jumper’s parachute rigging to the aircraft itself. As the jumper exits the aircraft, the static line pulls the parachutist’s canopy free. The canopy inflates and begins slowing the jumper’s fall. Static line jumps are the fastest, most efficient technique for deploying large numbers of paratroopers at once.