Tributes for Ian Byrne after death in plane crash
RESPECTED Ballina pilot Ian Byrne has died as a result of brain injuries sustained when his ultra-light crashed at Knockrow last week.
Mr Byrne did not regain consciousness after the accident and passed away at the Gold Coast University Hospital on Monday night surrounded by his wife Fran and their four children Keren, Judy, Cathy and Tony.
"He didn't feel any pain and he died doing what he loved most of all," Cathy Byrne said.
Mr Byrne, 73, was seen flying over a private airstrip at Paperbark Estate on Martins Lane when his engine appeared to stall.
A neighbour, Paul Scanlan, described seeing the ultra-light drop and clip a tree.
An investigation is being carried out by Recreational Aviation Australia.
Mr Byrne was a school teacher in Lismore, Alstonville and Ballina, including 32 years at Ballina High School, where he and Brian Cartwright introduced an aeronautics technology course; the only one offered at high school in Australia.
He also managed to convince the Department of Education and Training to approve flight training as part of the teaching program, and in 1992 Year 9 and 10 students built a Hughes Lightwing aircraft, which would eventually be used for flight practice.
Mr Byrne was also a Lieutenant Colonel with the 41st Battalion Army Reserve regiment in Lismore for many years.
In the 1980s, he was expelled from Surf Life Saving Australia in controversial circumstances when he insisted on putting a group of girls through the bronze medallion course.
"His whole life was about community service. A lot of different groups and people will miss him and appreciated his effort," Cathy Byrne said.
"As a family we are grateful for their thoughts and good wishes and I'd also like to thank the staff at the hospital for their exceptional care."
Mr Byrne was vice-president of the Evans Head Aviation Museum and president Rod Kinnish said the popular attraction would not be where it is today without Ian's "constant and tireless work".
"He was a personal friend and mentor to me and his knowledge of aviation and the people of the Northern Rivers was second to none. He'll be sorely missed and never forgotten," Mr Kinnish said.
President of the Ballina Aero Club, Gary Faulks, said Mr Byrne had been a member of the Ballina Ultra-light Club since 1983 and was heavily involved in the construction of the new clubhouse. He was also involved in operations at Birdsville Airport during the Birdsville races in 2013 and 2014.
"Everyone is deeply saddened by his passing and extends condolences to Fran and the family," Mr Faulks said.
After news of Mr Byrne's death broke yesterday readers offered tributes to the former teacher on The Northern Star's Facebook page.
"Very sad to hear. My condolences to the family," said one commenter.
"I had the privilege of having Ian as my avionics teacher at Ballina High School. His enthusiasm and love of flying was absolutely contagious and this is very much a sad loss to the many people that knew such a fine gentleman."
"Mr Byrne was a great teacher at Ballina High School many years ago when I was there. Condolences to his family. Rest in peace!" commented Kellie Hundt.
"Mr Byrne was such a wonderful teacher at Alstonville High," Robyn Wray said.
"Such a gentle person with a love of teaching. It is very sad to hear that he has passed away from such a terrible accident. Thinking of his friends and family at this sad time."
"Ian was a great member of Ballina surf life saving club and a jet rescue boat driver for many years.He trained many of us in surf life saving.What a loss to our community and his family RIP," said Elton Cummings.
The family has requested that flowers not be sent, but that condolences can be shown by donating to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.