A flying instructor who was killed in a light plane crash in Macedon Ranges, north of Melbourne, was a former Ansett Captain who had more than 20,000 flying hours experience.
Terry Otway, a 79-year-old from Sunbury, lost his life while on a training flight with a 48-year-old Lower Templestowe man who had just moved from Sydney.
The Brumby 600, which is a single-engine two-seater sports type light plane, took off from Penfield Flight School airfield in Sunbury on Saturday morning
Penfield Flight School owner Vince Goulthorpe said both the men were experienced pilots.
“The student was a man from Sydney who already had a flying licence,” Mr Goulthorpe said.
“He was changing his licence from GA to light aircraft.”
In a further sad twist, the student pilot’s wife was waiting at the airfield with her 18-month-old baby for her husband to return from the flight.
A witness to the crash thought he was watching an aerial aerobatics display before realising that the aircraft was doomed.
Mr Goulthorpe said he did not believe there was anything wrong with the aircraft.
“It is an excellent flying school,” he said.
“We haven’t had any trouble with the plane, we haven’t had any trouble with the pilot.”
Mr Goulthorpe said Mr Otway, who was the chief flying instructor at Penfield Flying School, was a very experienced pilot who had worked for the company for nearly 16 years.
He said he was saddened by the demise.
Chris Woodroofe owns a property next to the Lancefield horse stud farm, near the corner of Kyneton-Lancefield and Shannons roads, where the crash happened. He said he saw the plane fly high in the air, like it was preparing for a stunt.
“I thought it was doing aerobatics and it went into a spiral,” Mr Woodroofe said.
“I said to my wife Allison: ‘Come and have a look at this’. But she said: ‘I don’t think that’s aerobatics, that plane is in trouble’,” he said.
Mr Woodroofe said there was a chance the plane’s engine failed.
“It was very quiet when it was spiralling, I think, but I can’t be certain,” he said.
He said the couple saw the plane as low as 50 metres from the ground.
“We heard it hit the ground and there was a kind of ‘pop’ sound and then black smoke,” Mr Woodroofe said.
He said by the time they had run to the crash site three or four neighbours were already trying to help.
“I suppose we were hoping that whoever was in there might have been able to jump out,” he said.
“There wasn’t much left of it and it was only a little plane,” he said. “We are in shock, it is totally surreal.
“You go to an aerodrome and up you go. It is seen as a fun thing, you don’t expect not to come home. It is a very sad day,” he said. Police have confirmed two people, believed to be men, died when the plane exploded on impact about 11.15am on Saturday.
Dick and Pat Ryan own Warrawee Stud farm, where the plane went down.
Mr Ryan was dropping his wife to Melbourne Airport when the plane crashed. Neighbours rushed to the house, initially fearing it was caught up in the blaze, but found it was about 200 metres from the home. Mr Ryan said neighbours had helped to herd three horses from the paddock to safety.
“When I first saw it, when I got back from the airport, they’d only just put the fire out and it was a black wreck,” Mr Ryan said.
The Ryans’ neighbour, Dean, said at first the crash sounded like a tractor had hit a tree.
He said he then saw flames and a man reaching his arm out of the plane.
“It was nothing pretty, it was terrible,” Dean said.
“We have our fatalities on the roads out here, but nothing like this.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I feel for the family.”
Police are working to determine the identity of the deceased.
Bendigo police Acting Senior Sergeant Mick Peckham said a witness had called police after they saw a plane in distress at about 11.30am this morning.
Senior Sergeant Peckham said initial investigations had revealed the plane left Sunbury Airport about an hour earlier. He said it was believed the plane had experienced mechanical trouble.
“Our indications are that the aircraft was in a great deal of peril before it crashed,” he said.
“We don’t know but the efforts of the pilot may very well have been to seek out this paddock and save people on the roads or in houses.”Crime scene experts were on their way to analyse the scene.