A BALLINA pilot is in a critical condition after his ultra-light aircraft crashed to the ground on a property at Knockrow, near Ballina, yesterday morning.
Ian Byrne, 73, was seen flying over a private airstrip at Paperbark Estate on Martins Lane when the engine appeared to stall.
Paul Scanlan, who lives on the neighbouring property, said he saw the ultra-light take off from the property that morning.
"It just did a couple of circuits over the airstrip and seemed to have engine failure then, and just dropped down and clipped that tree unfortunately," he said.
Emergency services were called to the property about 9am following reports that a small aircraft had crashed.
An RFS spokeswoman said the aircraft clipped a tree and was turned upside down, trapping the pilot.
"The aircraft was upside down (and) the sole occupant was trapped and needed to be rescued," she said.
Doctors and paramedics on board the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter worked to stabilise the patient before he was transported to the Gold Coast University Hospital.
A spokesman for the helicopter said Mr Byrne suffered a severe head injury, possible spinal injury and pelvic injury.
Staff at the hospital last night said he was in the emergency department in a critical, but stable, condition and would be transferred to intensive care.
A crime scene has been established at the location and will be examined by forensic specialists.
Ian Byrne "one of the best guys around"
IAN Byrne is a long-time member of both the Ballina Aero Club and Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Association.
Aviation museum president Rod Kinnish said Mr Byrne had been an "inspirational" and "hard working" member since 2012, not long after the museum first opened.
"He's one of the best guys around … (and) he's certainly been flying a long time," he said.
"He's a very experienced pilot; his knowledge and understanding of aviation history and the people in the Northern Rivers region is unsurpassed and he's just loved and respected by everyone.
"He's an inspirational and hard-working person who has brought aviation to everyone."
Ballina Aero Club president Gary Faulks said Mr Byrne was a keen member of both clubs.
"He is really involved with the aero club and the aviation museum at Evans Head."
Mr Byrne is also involved in the annual Evans Head Great Eastern Fly-In.