Witnesses watched the two-seater light aircraft veering out of control before the pilot deployed his parachute with a “bang” before safely landing in the a tree in the back garden of a semi detached home.
The use of a full-plane parachute is rare but not unheard of, experts claim, and they have been credited with saving at least 69 lives in the past.
The Cirrus plane landed in the garden of coach driver Fred Greeff, 64, in Cheltenham, who was left frozen in fear as he saw it plummeting toward his home.
“I was sitting on my computer and I heard an engine spluttering – I had no idea what it could be,” Mr Greeff said.
“I heard this almighty bang, and I ran straight to the window and saw this huge plane heading straight for my garden.
“It was incredible, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was too shocked to move.”
Construction worker David Shatford was on scaffolding nearby when he saw the plane come “spinning over”.
The 30-year-old, from Cheltenham, said: “I heard the noise at first, it was so loud. I looked around and saw this plane coming straight towards me.
“It was about ten feet away, and I had to jump off the scaffolding. Next thing I knew the plane had smashed into the trees, and I was on auto pilot.
“Without thinking I jumped over the fence and went to help the pilot. He managed to get himself out, and he told me the fuel was off.
“It was crazy though. I’ve never seen anything else like it before. I was scared and I could smell fuel, but I just acted.”
He said that the pilot was quiet and seemed shaken. Witnesses watched the pilot, who has not been identified, walk away from the wreckage of the plane shouting “I’m OK, I’m OK.”
It looked as if he was attempting to steer the plane away from people’s homes, they said.
“He is really lucky to be alive – and a hero for making sure no-one else was hurt,” Mr Greeff added.
Neighbour Desmond Creswell, 87, a retired RAF aircrew wireless operator, said that it was a misty morning and the plane appeared to be struggling before he heard an “enormous bang” when the parachute was deployed.
“He was too low to support the plane, but he did a remarkable job at keeping the plane from anyone else. He deserves a medal.”
A parachute for a plane? Why don’t they have big ones of these on passenger jets?