Sunday, January 11, 2015

Yakovlev Yak-18T, VH-YYZ: Incident occurred January 09, 2015 near Heck Field Airport (YHEC), Gold Coast, Queensland

A Sunshine Coast couple who walked away from a dramatic emergency landing in a cane field say they were never worried they wouldn't get down safely.

But when they hit the ground and grass and dirt began flying around the windscreen, Tracey Young admits her confidence began to waver.

The 49-year-old Buddina woman recounted the "longest three seconds" of her life as her partner, experienced pilot Derek Townsend, 68, struggled to keep control of his Russian Yak 18T once its wheels hit the ground during the landing on the Gold Coast.

The recently restored aircraft was to be one of the attractions at the annual Great Eastern Fly-in at Evans Head and the couple were flying there when the drama unfolded on Friday afternoon.

When the plane's single engine began to malfunction, they tried to make it to a nearby airfield.

Instead, they came down in a muddied, broken mess near the Heck Field Airport, next to the Gold Coast Clay Target Club.

Despite the small plane suffering a snapped wing, pushed-in nose, broken propeller and damage to the tail, both Ms Young and Mr Townsend were able to walk away from the wreckage.

It took just 10 minutes from the time the engine first started to malfunction until the wheels touched land and a further three seconds until the aircraft came to a complete stop.

"It was the longest three seconds of my life," Ms Young said.

"I always knew we were going to be okay - Derek's a great pilot. But those last few seconds were intense."

Mr Townsend, who founded Warbirds Sunshine Coast and flies planes almost every day, said all was going well on the flight until they were about 16km south of Dunwich, on North Stradbroke Island. "The engine started to run rough and I tried to rectify it," he said.

"We continued and the power started to drop out gradually, so I called emergency through air traffic control and was given directions to the nearest airfield.

"I couldn't quite make it to the airstrip; we were flying too low and I couldn't turn the plane enough and maintain control."

Mr Townsend said the plane was doing 140kmh before the initial touchdown.

The cane land was boggy and uneven, meaning the couple were thrown about, even though they descended with the nose of the plane on an upward angle to reduce the impact.

"The plane did make a slight turn towards the end, but reports that it somersaulted are incorrect," Mr Townsend said.

The couple plan to go to the crash site today to salvage the plane and have it diagnosed to determine what had caused "one of the most reliable engines in the world" to fail.

Thankful they were able to walk away unscathed, Mr Townsend said he was "a bit p***ed" his pride and joy had been so badly damaged.

"It was built in 1994 and it had been under refurbishment for a year-and-a-half and had just been in the air for eight months," he said.


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