News

Pilot was 'high risk-taker'

One of the crash victims, Josef Hainaut.
One of the crash victims, Josef Hainaut.

THE CASINO Aero Club president has told the coronial inquest into the death of two men in an ultralight crash at Tatham in 2010 the pilot was "an accident waiting to happen".

Russell Kennedy was one of five witnesses to give evidence at Lismore Coroner's Court yesterday about the flying habits of pilot Michael O'Keefe.

In a statement made to police, Mr Kennedy also said Mr O'Keefe was "a high risk-taker".

"His airmanship was questionable at times around the airfield," he said.

Mr Kennedy said he spoke to Mr O'Keefe a number of times over an 18-month period about being reckless.

When asked what improvements could be made to prevent this sort of tragedy happening again, Mr Kennedy said Mr O'Keefe may have not complied to regulations against flying as "he did what he wanted to".

Jodi McDonald, who flew with Mr O'Keefe from Lismore to Byron Bay on April 14, 2008, told the court Mr O'Keefe performed illegal aerobatics during the flight.

"I knew we went upside down and the nose went down first," she said. When asked if Mr O'Keefe was doing these manoeuvres over residential areas, Ms McDonald replied "yes".

The court heard that Mr O'Keefe had his licence suspended by Recreational Aviation Australia in February 2009 for 12 months after being reported for doing illegal manoeuvres.

Fellow pilot Andrew Dunning told of knowing Mr O'Keefe by his reputation as a pilot.

Mr Dunning told the court he witnessed Mr O'Keefe perform a dangerous spin rotating five times at 2000 feet at the 2010 Inglewood fly-in.

"I wouldn't have completed that spin in a plane like Michael's at that height," he said.

Casino Aero Club member Ian Ellis said suspending O'Keefe's licence for illegal manoeuvres wouldn't have stopped him flying.

"It didn't matter whether you took his licence away he would still fly; that was the sort of person Mr O'Keefe was," he said.

One of Mr O'Keefe's flying instructors, Wayne Fisher, told police his student was "way over-confident and appeared to be a risk-taker".

He said because of Mr O'Keefe's attitude and their difficult relationship he ceased lessons.

He said he had heard of Mr O'Keefe performing manoeuvres and was told of his YouTube video but he didn't see him performing any illegal manoeuvres.

Topics:  casino aero club, fatal crash, lismore, lismore coroner's court, pilot, plane crash


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