London, July 19 : A British pilot leaned out of the plane hatch to free an Army parachutist entangled in the landing gear, while they were flying 3,000ft above the Joint Service Prachute Centre at Bad Lippspringe in Germany.
He later rushed back to the controls after freeing the parachutist, who used his reserve canopy to land safely.
"The pilot showed significant bravery and skill. We are unaware of a rescue like this happening before," British tabloid The Sun quoted a Ministry of Defence spokesman as saying.
The drama unfolded when six British soldiers took off in the twin propeller engine Islander for a military parachuting competition - dubbed Exercise Backstop Drop.
While the first five jumped successfully, the sixth - an instructor - hit when his chute partially deployed and its rigging became caught in the undercarriage.
"We saw a body dangling helplessly from the plane as it was coming into land. It circled us and then banked. We did not see the plane land as trees cover the view - but it looked like a terrible tragedy was about to happen. Then we heard the sirens of emergency vehicles rushing to the scene," said one witness on the ground.
Another onlooker, a worker at the nearby Army barracks, said: "We were watching the plane when I noticed there was a man dangling upside-down by some sort of cable. It was really surreal as he was completely caught up. They must have been flying at about 140mph."
The witness added: "We saw it for about 50 seconds and the plane seemed to be descending so we assumed the pilot had to land with the man still underneath. We heard the emergency services shortly afterwards and assumed the worst."
The modest flier, who is a former soldier based at the centre near Paderborn, has asked for his identity to be kept secret.
It is thought that the instructor either pulled the cord a split second too soon or there was a technical malfunction which caused the chute to partially deploy.
An onlooker said: "I've parachuted before - but now I'd never do it again."