Monday, January 30, 2012

Pitts S2-ZZ (built by Kent Gorton), VH-RDW: Accident occurred January 29, 2012 at Murray Bridge Airport - YMBD, SA - Australia

Conflict has erupted within the national aircraft aerobatics fraternity in the wake of the death of amateur pilot Rob Morgan in South Australia at the weekend.

Australian Aerobatic Club South Australia president Dave Foord yesterday hit out at NSW-based former club president Paul Bennet, who had said Mr Morgan, 33, was too inexperienced to be flying the highly modified Pitts Special S2-S biplane and did not have the ability to safely engage in solo freestyle aerobatics.

Mr Foord yesterday slammed the comments as "sickening" and said he had confronted Mr Bennet, who stood by his remarks.

Mr Foord said renowned aviator Chris Sperou, a 13-time winner of the Australian Aerobatic Championships, had spent a year training Mr Morgan.

"Chris coached Rob for about 100 hours of flying in the past 12 months, so Rob was extremely experienced and well coached," Mr Foord said.

"He may not have had a whole lot of experience in the aircraft when he left Maitland where it was put together with Paul Bennet, but he certainly had constant supervision and coaching from Chris Sperou and some other very experienced pilots."

Mr Morgan died after his plane crash-landed in a paddock about 11am on Sunday near the Pallamana airstrip, 9km northwest of Murray Bridge.

Mr Morgan, who was not married and had no children, lived in Murray Bridge, 75km southeast of Adelaide, where he worked as an earthmoving contractor. It is understood he was attempting aerial tricks before he crashed and planned to compete for the first time in the Victorian Aerobatic Championships next month.

Mr Bennet, the 2009 Australian Unlimited Aerobatic Champion, said Mr Morgan had been "too inexperienced with this plane, and that's the problem . . . I warned him about it".

Mr Bennet helped assemble the plane when it was imported from the US in November 2010.

Mr Foord yesterday said he was shocked by Mr Bennet's comments.

"I have spoken to Paul about what he said and he stands by that, but Rob had been assessed for low-level aerobatics," Mr Foord said. "Paul Bennet is no doubt a very experienced man, but he's not the only person who can fly aerobatics."

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