Saturday, February 27, 2016

Jabiru St 3, 55-3692: Fatal accident occurred February 27, 2016 near Katoomba Airfield (YKAT), Australia

Rodney Hay, 80, had more than 8,000 hours of flying experience.

An elderly pilot killed in a Blue Mountains plane crash was a veteran flying instructor who had survived nine emergency landings including one in the same type of ultralight he died piloting.

Rodney Victor Hay, 80, was killed when the Jabiru plane he was flying crashed in bushland about 150 metres east of Katoomba Airfield on Saturday.

The grandfather was thought to have taken off about noon to conduct circuits of the airfield and was reported missing by a family friend about 5.30pm, police said.

Inspector Peter Balatincz, from the Blue Mountains Local Area Command, said there appeared to be nothing unusual about flying conditions, although the weather was overcast.

A search and rescue helicopter located the wreckage on Sunday morning and winched a paramedic down to the rough terrain.

The paramedic confirmed the crash was not survivable, according to a statement from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

On Sunday, Mr Hay's family gathered near the crash site and said he was a long-time pilot who was happiest when he was flying.

"He loved it," Mr Hay's daughter Amber Hay told Seven News.

"Most of his life, he flew. It was his happy place."

She became emotional when she said he would want to be remembered in the plane, "always".

Reports of his death shocked the aviation community as Mr Hay was a highly experienced instructor and pilot with more than 8000 flying hours' experience and had worked as the chief flying instructor appointed to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority between 1992 and 2002.

Locals said Mr Hay had worked tirelessly to ensure the Katoomba Airfield remained operational.

Mr Hay was sued by a flying student following a plane crash in May 2007 in the Blue Mountains, where he made an emergency landing after an engine failure in a Jabiru.

Evidence raised in the court case revealed Mr Hay's vast piloting experience included surviving nine emergency landings. In the 2007 flight, Mr Hay was flying his Jabiru, teaching the student, when the plane's engine started to run rough near Hartley, about 27 kilometres from Katoomba Airfield.

After the engine started to vibrate, Mr Hay took over the controls and - according to a judge's findings in the court case - the engine stopped.

Mr Hay put the aircraft into a glide, made a Mayday call and made an unsuccessful attempt to restart the engine, according to the judgment.

By then the aircraft was close to the ground and Mr Hay manouevred it around a tree, into a gully and pitched the aircraft sharply up a slope.

Mr Hay was sued unsuccessfully for negligence by the student, who made a number of allegations including that the flight should have been aborted as soon as the engine started to vibrate and that Mr Hay had failed to take steps to ensure the engine did not fail.

The claim was dismissed on the grounds the student pilot suffered harm from the materialisation of an obvious risk of the dangerous recreational activity in which he was engaged.

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Rod Hay 
 Katoomba pilot Rod Hay was found dead after a light aircraft crash in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

A friend has paid tribute to an experienced pilot who was found dead inside the wreckage of his light plane, which went missing in the Blue Mountains yesterday.

The pilot, 80-year-old Katoomba man Rod Hay, was the only person on board the single-engine aircraft, which was reported missing about 5:00pm on Saturday after taking off five hours earlier from Katoomba Airfield.

It is believed Mr Hay had 60 years of flight experience.

An ambulance helicopter found the wreckage of the aircraft about 200 metres from the Katoomba airstrip at Medlow Bath at 10:00am on Sunday.

Emery Williams, a friend of Mr Hay, said he was devastated when he heard the news.

"He was a lovely old guy, salt of the earth ... lots and lots of friends, a good bush pilot," Mr Williams said.

"I first met him, nearly 40 years ago now, when I was first learning to fly myself.

"He'd do anything for anyone, help anyone ... he helped out with the fire season, two years ago now."

Blue Mountains Police Inspector Peter Balatincz said the aircraft had suffered significant damage and was found in an area that was difficult to get to.

"A paramedic was winched in by helicopter to the scene, unfortunately the pilot was located deceased," Inspector Balatincz said.

"At this stage an investigation has commenced and that is being conducted jointly by police and Recreational Aviation Australia.

"Forensic investigators are on route to record the scene."

Inspector Balatincz said the investigation was in its infancy and at this stage it was unclear what the cause of the crash was.

When asked whether the plane was taking off or landing he said that the aircraft was in flight when it was last seen by a witness.

"The aircraft had taken off, had conducted two loops of the area here and then disappeared, so it was well and truly in the sky.

"No witnesses have come forward at this stage indicating they saw a crash or any wreckage."

'It's a traumatic experience for all people involved'

Inspector Balatincz said Mr Hay's relatives had been notified.

"It's a traumatic experience for all people involved, so they're noticeably upset. They are in a state of mourning and shock," he said.

"The information is that he is an experienced pilot, with years of experience.

"The wreckage is strewn over a large area of rugged bushland ... it's difficult to access."

He said the investigation may take a while.

"Investigations are ongoing, experts are arriving on scene and a brief will be prepared for the coroner," he said.

"It will be a painstaking procedure, because of the terrain, because of the area where some of the wreckage is strewn."

Mr Williams said Mr Hay was a good pilot and that "if he had wings on his arms he would fly".

"He absolutely loved to fly, lived to fly," he said.

"He was an awesome, friendly old man, with a great sense of humour ... an old bloke with some angel wings on."

Another friend, Tim Harris, paid tribute to Mr Hay on the Katoomba Airfield Facebook page.

"I'll truly miss seeing you flying around the the Blue Mountains," Mr Harris said.

"Thanks for taking me up once, I'll always fondly remember that flight. Blue skies mate."

Inspector Balatincz said a search was started yesterday after a family friend reported Mr Hay missing.

Ten aircraft, including nine helicopters and one plane, took part in the search for the airplane.

A statement from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which was coordinating the various authorities involved in the search, said initial reports from the ground indicated the crash was not survivable.

"AMSA extends our sympathy to the family and friends of the pilot and wishes to thank everyone involved in the search operation," the statement said.

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An elderly pilot has died after his plane crashed near Katoomba in the Blue Mountains on Saturday.

Police said the man, 80, took off from Katoomba Airstrip in a light plane about 12.15pm on Saturday and lapped the airfield several times before flying east.

When he didn't return several hours later, a friend contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) about 5.15pm, and the pilot was formally reported missing at 6pm.

A search and rescue operation was launched shortly after by police, AMSA and NSW Ambulance, which was suspended overnight and continued from 7.30am on Sunday.

Just before 10am, the wreckage was found in bushland about 200 metres from the airstrip.

A paramedic was winched down to the crash site and the pilot was found to have died inside the aircraft.

Police have set up a crime scene at the site, which is being examined by detectives and forensic officers.

Anyone who saw the plane on Saturday is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

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