A Drifter ultralight similar to the one that crashed on Saturday
A Drifter ultralight similar to the one that crashed on Saturday

Claim pilot of aircraft unlicensed

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

star@byronnews.com.au

THE PILOT of an ultralight aircraft that crashed off Tyagarah Beach on Saturday was unlicensed and was seen performing acrobatic manoeuvres dangerous in that type of aircraft, it was revealed yesterday.

The bodies of the 54-year-old Ocean Shores pilot and his 25year-old son are yet to be recovered from the ocean, and police are unable to release their names until they are officially identified.

However, John Gardon, president of the Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) organisation, yesterday confirmed the pilot believed to have been flying the borrowed $50,000 aircraft was unlicensed.

"The person we believe to have been flying that aircraft did not have a valid licence and hadn't renewed his licence for five years," Mr Gardon said.

"A licence to fly a recreational aircraft is only valid for 12 months and must be renewed each year."

Mr Gardon said RA-Aus was continuing investigations into the cause of the crash and confirmed that a number of eyewitnesses claimed the pilot was attempting dangerous aerial acrobatic movements.

Had the pilot been licensed, and survived the crash, he would certainly have faced disciplinary action for the manoeuvres, and could have had his licence ? had he had one ? revoked, Mr Gardon said.

"No recreational aircraft is allowed (by RA-Aus) to engage in acrobatic manoeuvres," Mr Gardon said.

"If CASA guidelines are breached we have the authority to take disciplinary action. We could revoke their licence."

One eyewitness, chief flying instructor with the Byron Gliding Club Ian McPhee, said he had watched the Drifter ultralight take-off 'aggressively'.

"We saw him take off doing aggressive flying, up like that, rapid manoeuvres," Mr McPhee said, demonstrating a barrel move with his hands.

"If you go over the top like that (upside down), you do a negative manoeuvre and these recreational aircraft are just not designed for this," he said.

Mr McPhee said he had huge sympathy for the man's family and for the owner of the aircraft, a friend of the missing pilot who had flown with him several times.

"You don't ask to see someone's licence when you've flown with them before," he said.

"The owner of the plane is a gentle man, he didn't fly aggressively. I'm sure he looked after his plane very well."

The accident's cause will be determined by RA-Aus once the wreckage is recovered.

There also will be a coronial inquiry into the deaths.

An underwater search for the ultralight wreckage was suspended at 2pm yesterday after large swells threatened police divers' safety, said Inspector Owen King, of the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command.

"The wreckage may only be 50 or 60 metres away, but the divers said it was pitch black down there."

The divers will resume their search at 5am today, again using sonar equipment.

However, Inspector King said there was 'no hope' of finding the two men alive.

Family members spent most of yesterday at Tyagarah Beach waiting.

"We are fairly confident of finding the aircraft in the water," Inspector King said.

"We are just hoping for the family that it is sooner rather than later." By MEGAN KINNINMENT

star@byronnews.com.au

THE PILOT of an ultralight aircraft that crashed off Tyagarah Beach on Saturday was unlicensed and was seen performing acrobatic manoeuvres dangerous in that type of aircraft, it was revealed yesterday.

The bodies of the 54-year-old Ocean Shores pilot and his 25year-old son are yet to be recovered from the ocean, and police are unable to release their names until they are officially identified.

However, John Gardon, president of the Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) organisation, yesterday confirmed the pilot believed to have been flying the borrowed $50,000 aircraft was unlicensed.

"The person we believe to have been flying that aircraft did not have a valid licence and hadn't renewed his licence for five years," Mr Gardon said.

"A licence to fly a recreational aircraft is only valid for 12 months and must be renewed each year."

Mr Gardon said RA-Aus was continuing investigations into the cause of the crash and confirmed that a number of eyewitnesses claimed the pilot was attempting dangerous aerial acrobatic movements.

Had the pilot been licensed, and survived the crash, he would certainly have faced disciplinary action for the manoeuvres, and could have had his licence ? had he had one ? revoked, Mr Gardon said.

"No recreational aircraft is allowed (by RA-Aus) to engage in acrobatic manoeuvres," Mr Gardon said.

"If CASA guidelines are breached we have the authority to take disciplinary action. We could revoke their licence."

One eyewitness, chief flying instructor with the Byron Gliding Club Ian McPhee, said he had watched the Drifter ultralight take-off 'aggressively'.

"We saw him take off doing aggressive flying, up like that, rapid manoeuvres," Mr McPhee said, demonstrating a barrel move with his hands.

"If you go over the top like that (upside down), you do a negative manoeuvre and these recreational aircraft are just not designed for this," he said.

Mr McPhee said he had huge sympathy for the man's family and for the owner of the aircraft, a friend of the missing pilot who had flown with him several times.

"You don't ask to see someone's licence when you've flown with them before," he said.

"The owner of the plane is a gentle man, he didn't fly aggressively. I'm sure he looked after his plane very well."

The accident's cause will be determined by RA-Aus once the wreckage is recovered.

There also will be a coronial inquiry into the deaths.

An underwater search for the ultralight wreckage was suspended at 2pm yesterday after large swells threatened police divers' safety, said Inspector Owen King, of the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command.

"The wreckage may only be 50 or 60 metres away, but the divers said it was pitch black down there."

The divers will resume their search at 5am today, again using sonar equipment.

However, Inspector King said there was 'no hope' of finding the two men alive.

Family members spent most of yesterday at Tyagarah Beach waiting.

"We are fairly confident of finding the aircraft in the water," Inspector King said.

"We are just hoping for the family that it is sooner rather than later."



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