Amanda and Kyle Franklin, a husband and wife aerobatics team, were forced to make an emergency landing in front of a horrified crowd at Air Fiesta 2011 at Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport on Saturday. Amanda was out of the plane, “wing walking,” when the plane stalled, and smoke and flames shot out of the engine. Amanda was able to quickly get back into the cockpit of the plane, but when the plane crashed, it caught on fire.
Rescuers quickly got to the plane, but had trouble getting to the couple, particularly Amanda, who was burned over 70 percent of her body. According to the Franklin’s Flying Circus (FFC) Facebook page, she remains in the U.S. Army Burn Center, stating “As of today Amanda is in ‘stabilized’ condition but please keep in mind that ‘stabilized’ does not necessarily mean ‘stable,’ she remains in the Burn Intensive Care Unit.”
Because of smoke inhalation and the extreme heat of the fire, Amanda is not breathing on her own, and has a breathing tube and is on a ventilator. She is burned on 70 percent of her body and, the FFC page reports, 64 percent of those burns are third degree burns, including burns to her face.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, regarding third degree burns:
“The most serious burns involve all layers of the skin and cause permanent tissue damage. Fat, muscle and even bone may be affected. Areas may be charred black or appear dry and white. Difficulty inhaling and exhaling, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other toxic effects may occur if smoke inhalation accompanies the burn.”
Amanda also sustained fractures to her face and the orbital bones around her eyes, but doctors are optimistic that her eyesight has not been affected. She has a broken neck and broken back, but it does not appear to physicians at this time that she has been paralyzed.
Kyle sustained fewer injuries than his wife, and had skin grafts on Friday. In an interview from his hospital bed at the U.S. Army Burn Center with the Today Show, he said that Amanda barely had time to get back into the plane—only about 14 seconds. But, since the front of the cockpit was the first part of the plane to catch on fire, she was trapped, while Kyle was pulled out more easily. Amanda was trapped by her safety harness. “She has very little skin left for them to do much grafting,” Kyle said through tears. The two met through their fathers, also air stunt pilots. Flying as a team, they were both killed in 2005 when their planes crashed mid-air. Kyle said he and his wife both love flying, just as their fathers did, and that he was sure that, even after this tragic accident, she would want to get back in the air flying when she recovers.
Amanda had a first surgery over the weekend, and is scheduled for a second this week. More information and updates are available on the FFC Facebook page.