Ultralight pilot killed in crash

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Postby lazair » Sun Jun 20, 2004 8:38 pm


Ultralight pilot killed in crash
June 21, 2004

A man was killed in a freak aircraft accident yesterday when his ultralight machine was lifted 500m into the air and then plummeted to the ground.

The man, 55, had been flying over a cattle station in a three-wheeled propeller-driven aircraft before it crashed in thick scrub.

Police said the parachute on the aircraft was caught by a very strong gust of wind, which blew the man a few kilometres away from where he was flying.

Witnesses said the ultralight was lifted hundreds of metres into the air.

Ricky Jones, also at the airstrip with his ultralight, said he saw the man flying about 30m above the ground in the area just before he disappeared.

"It appeared he tried to land downwind and the next thing he was gone," Mr Jones, of Alice Springs, said.

"I didn't actually see him disappear but I knew something was wrong."

"I drove around to where I thought the gust might have taken him but couldn't find him.

"I kept beeping my car horn but there was no answer.

"Then I went back to the airstrip and called police."

The accident happened about 10am yesterday near the Bond Springs Station airstrip, about 20km northwest of Alice Springs.

Other witnesses told police the craft was lifted into the air by the strong gust.

They said the ultralight then headed in a northwesterly direction before disappearing from sight.

Police organised a helicopter which was in the area to divert to the scene to try to find the Alice Springs man. The helicopter pilot spotted the wreckage near an abattoir on the property about 11am.

Police, ambulance and emergency service crews went to the crash scene but the man was found dead.

His name has not been released.

The Bond Springs airstrip is frequently used by people flying ultralight aircraft and by the local gliding club.

Club senior instructor Tom Bird said people in the town were shocked to hear about the man's death.

He said ultralight pilots used the area early in the morning because it was normally calm, but they gave it away by 10am because thermal updrafts took over.

"It must have been a real freak updraft to lift a craft like that and blow it away so far," Mr Bird said.

He said people started flying gliders mid to late morning to take advantage of thermal updrafts.

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