The Crash of Teijin.

After the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the group decided to travel to Canowindra in western NSW to fly Teijin untethered. The airspace was officially classified as "uncontrolled" and considering that Teijin was almost uncontrollable, it made sense. Although crew members had worn emergency harnesses, and carried small reserve chutes stowed nearby, no one had ever actually jumped.
On the first flight, Ken Bath and I went up to parachute from it together. Teijin struggled but remained on the ground. Reluctantly I got out to reduce the load.

The balloon had numerous leaks and even with the burner running constantly, it struggled to reach 610m. (2,000ft.) Ken made his jump and the balloon landed without incident.

A trailer with its huge VW powered ground blower.   Ken Bath and Terry hook up the numerous cables.
Ken Bath wearing main chute and carrying his reserve.   All goes well on the first day, but Teijin struggles to reach 2,000 ft..
Ken Bath jumps but drops dangerously close to the drag rope.   The 200ft. drag rope can be seen here dangling from the basket as Kens' main chute opens below.
The hot air from the blower gets Teijin to a standing position.   As Teujin stands, the main burner is lit.
  Terry sorts out the cables as the burner roars away. Note the primitive shield and its asbestos cover.

At full blast Teijin still struggles to lift.

Don Joergens on left, Stan Grincivicius center, myself gold helmet.

As I was intending to jump, by regulation wore not only a main parachute on my back, but also a reserve at the front.

Unfortunately I decided not to carry my helmet camera.


Those on the ground had a long and heavy job to get us off the ground. The burner never stopped. Conversation was impossible.

After 20 minutes of constant heating, we reached 4,500 ft. I climbed up and stood on the edge of the gondola, and could feel the heat from the burner blasting away beside me.


Over a large ploughed paddock, after a nod to Don and Stan, I stepped off.

Stan photographed my departure before realising they had a problem.

Ten seconds later, having dropped about 1,000ft, I opened the parachute.

Checking my canopy, I spotted Teijin above. Teijin was made from a red and white striped fabric, however, I could see it turning silver.

This was a puzzle, until I realised that I was seeing the inside of the envelope as it began to rip vertically and slowly turn inside out.


As I descended, Teijin was coming down even faster. It was awful, hanging there as a spectator unable to help. Thankfully it wasn't long before I saw someone jump and open their canopy. Then another jumped and opened. Our parachutes are just visible as dots in this only photo of the drama.

The balloon kept deflating and dropping faster. I remember sighing with relief as it missed them both. It was falling ever faster, then as it reached level with me, the top suddenly burst open and the last bubble of air escaped.

There was a roar of flapping fabric as it began diving straight down. It appeared to be heading for an isolated farm house, but fortunately landed in a ploughed paddock nearby.


From above, I saw it impact, and the three metal sides of the gondola were flung open like flower petals, then immediately buried as the trailing fabric poured over it. One of the 100lb fuel tanks was dented on a rock, but luckily didn't explode, as I was by then, not that far above it.

It was strange landing there. Just over a fence on a gentle rise, was this lonely pile of wreckage. It was quiet, not a soul was in sight and there was a sadness with the fabric flapping gently in the breeze. It was quite some time before anyone arrived.Then Don and Stan walked over a rise carrying their parachutes and with smiles of relief.

Later, I had this conversation with Stan Grincivicius. (Who now calls himself Stan Greene.)

" I still have shivers about that. It could have dragged us both down. When you stepped out, the balloon heaved up, but the air had nowhere to go, so I believe it blew out the side ripping a hole there.

At that stage Don and I decided to stay, with a decision to jump at 3000ft if it did not look too safe. I put the camera back in the bag and got back on the rim of the gondola. The decision was taken from us when we heard the rip going horizontally along the crown tape. We did not wait after that. People ask me if I had done parachute jumping before - I reply no but all you got to do is pull the cord and then roll forward on landing as we all have seen in the movies - ha, pretty hard to roll forward when one is hanging backward supported by D rings at the level of one's nipples.



I still bless Ken Bath for getting reserve chutes with spring-loaded drag chutes & for packing them well. Don nearly hit powerlines. As I was coming down I saw the barbed wire fence stretching in direct line with the family jewels. I missed it by a whisker. Despite knowing Newtons third law on motion I still tried to throw myself to the left.


As the story goes I missed the fence, but good news -there was a ploughed field next to the fence, but bad news- I missed the ploughed field and landed on the hard strip next to the fence.

All I remember after that day, the beer was the best beer that I ever tasted, the leak was the best leak of my life."

The occupants of the farmhouse came out briefly, but decided there was far more excitement on TV. We heard that a football game in Canowindra came to a halt when they spotted Teijin crashing to the ground.

The home team lost, and we were blamed.



Keith Wilcox examines the wreckage.

The propane tanks were almost full. One had a dent from a rock.

No one could have survived the impact had they remained on board.

Stans camera survived, although flung some distance away.

Don Joergens, always cheerful and unflustered, stands beside Teijins gondola. The heavy drag rope is visible.

He had no parachute training either, and was lucky to survive.

He now lives in his native Holland.


Because both he and Stan made emergency, unpremeditated jumps, (unlike my jump) they became eligible to join the "Caterpillar Club." In WW2, parachutes were made from silk, and a club was formed for those airmen whose lives were saved in emergency jumps. Don and Stan, each have the club badge. A silkworm with its silked thread.

cat club

  Crash Sequence as a slide show.