Lucky pair: Instructor Geordie Paton and student pilot Lauren Porter walked away unscathed after the single engine plane they were flying crashed into a field at Whiporie yesterday.
Lucky pair: Instructor Geordie Paton and student pilot Lauren Porter walked away unscathed after the single engine plane they were flying crashed into a field at Whiporie yesterday. Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter

Single engine plane lost power

TWO young pilots are lucky to be alive after their single engine plane lost power just south of Casino yesterday.

Student pilot Lauren Porter, 23, who works for the Flying Vet in Katherine NT, was at the controls on a training flight from Cessnock to Lismore when the Jabaroo’s engine failed.

Her Lismore-based flight instructor, Geordie Paton, 20, from the Northern Rivers Aero Club said he had only seconds to commit to a plan of action.

“We were at 1000 feet so I knew we had one minute of gliding time,” he said.

The remarkably calm instructor successfully put the twin seater down in a slashed paddock east of Whiporie.

“We place a huge emphasis on safety and emergency procedures so it wasn’t that terrifying,” he said.

“It’s heavily forested there so if we hadn’t found the clearing we would’ve slowed the aircraft as much as possible and stalled it into the trees.

“It wouldn’t have been quite as pretty.”

The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was dispatched directly by Australian Search and Rescue in Canberra after the distress call was picked up by an airborne aircraft and relayed to AusSAR via Brisbane Flight Information Services.

Rescue pilot Mike Sterritt said they had no trouble finding the pair and commended Mr Paton’s efforts.

They were picked up by the rescue chopper and flown to Lismore.

Mr Paton drove back to the plane yesterday afternoon with two engineers to find the engine had completely seized.

“It’s a brand new aircraft so we’re not too impressed,” he said.

“It’s in perfect condition except for the engine. We’ll have to look at trucking it out.”

It is the fourth light aircraft incident on the Northern Rivers in two months and follows a gyrocopter crash at Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome on Saturday where the trainee pilot was seriously injured.

Another gyrocopter made a forced landing at Tallow Beach near Byron Bay on January 10, and a helicopter made a spectacular emergency landing on a precarious mountain ridge near Mt Lindsey on January 28.

A spokesman for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said they would not be investigating the latest incident as there were no injuries or significant damage.

When asked why the Evans Head crash would not be investigated he said ATSB did not have the resources to investigate all incidents and recreational aircraft incidents were the lowest priority.

“We have to prioritise the potential safety value of any investigation and the likelihood of yielding a safety message,” he said.



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