Macleay Island pilot awarded for bravery

Macleay Island pilot Kevin Hughes was bestowed a bravery medal for his efforts to save a parachutist. He is pictured at the Canberra ceremony with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove. Photo: Supplied
Macleay Island pilot Kevin Hughes was bestowed a bravery medal for his efforts to save a parachutist. He is pictured at the Canberra ceremony with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove. Photo: Supplied

A PILOT who left the controls of a light plane to save a parachutist who was hanging upside down from the aircraft’s side has received a bravery award.

Kevin Hughes set his plane into a controlled descent before leaving his seat to rescue the woman whose  jumpsuit had caught on a step as she leaped from the plane.

It was an act of courage to cut her free because the plane could have spiralled out of control, killing him as well.

“Anything could have happened that could have killed both of us,” he said.

“I had to make sure the plane wouldn’t flip upside down and throw me out.”

Although the event happened 25 years ago, just this month he received an award for his courage, receiving a bravery medal.

The experienced pilot, who has lived in the Redlands for the past year, was one of 21 Queenslanders to receive a decoration at the Canberra service.

Bravery medal recipient Kevin Hughes with Royal Australian Air Force air marshal Leo Davis. Photo: Supplied

Bravery medal recipient Kevin Hughes with Royal Australian Air Force air marshal Leo Davis. Photo: Supplied

Governor-General Peter Cosgrove congratulated all bravery award recipients for their daring.

“We are fortunate as a community to have so many outstanding people willing to put themselves in harm’s way to assist others in need, and it is only fitting that they have today been recognised through the Australian honours system.

“These awards have drawn national attention to the personal efforts of individuals, made willingly, without thought of personal risk.”

Mr Hughes said he would have no hesitation in doing the same thing again.

He attributed the rescue’s success to his experience in emergency and defence operations but also believed luck had played a part.

“The gods were on our side that day,” he said.

While Mr Hughes said he had not seen the woman since but would never forget the incident.

He said she had hugged him tightly in shock after he landed.

“She wouldn’t let me go,” he said.