By Frank Spalding
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Extra resources for Plane Crash: True Stories of Survival
Trained to fly by relying on their instrument panels, the pilots were unconcerned. Suddenly, the turbulence got a lot worse. The Fairchild was a light plane, and it was thrown around by the air currents. When the plane emerged from the cloud bank, everyone aboard realized that something had gone horribly wrong. Somehow, an error had been made, and they were flying too close to the mountains. Before the pilots could take evasive action, the right wing hit the side of a rock face. It broke free from the body of the plane and cut off the tail.
The shepherds brought them to a nearby house and fed them a large meal of bread, cheese, milk, pasta, and meat. Some might have considered it simple peasant's fare, but for Canessa and Parrado it was a feast. It didn't take long for help to arrive. The sixteen survivors of the Fairchild were brought to a hospital, where they made full recoveries. The young men made it home in time to spend Christmas with their families, who had never given up searching for them. To this day, the survivors of the Fairchild are remembered as heroes.
This was bad news for the young American pilot. Soviet prisons were notoriously brutal, and hard labor camps could be even worse. S. government was eventually able to make a deal with the Soviets to exchange him for a Soviet spy in American custody. After serving nearly two years of his sentence, he was freed. Upon Powers's return to the United States, his actions in the Soviet Union were thoroughly investigated by a special committee. Eventually, he was found to have acted honorably under difficult circumstances.