Favour for a mate gets turned about with plane mishap

LUCKY ESCAPE: Emergency services attend the scene of a light aircraft mishap on the main runway at Ballina Airport yesterday morning.
LUCKY ESCAPE: Emergency services attend the scene of a light aircraft mishap on the main runway at Ballina Airport yesterday morning. Doug Eaton

ALLAN Fry was just doing a favour for a mate on Wednesday when a strong wind gust blew the light plane he was landing at Ballina airport and it ended up on its roof.

The four-seater Jabiru, that weighs about 370kg, was blown from the runway onto adjacent grass by the wind, before it hit a landing light and flipped onto its roof at about 9.30am.

Northern Rivers Aero Club chief flying instructor Bill Kiernan said no one could be blamed for the "freak incident".

"When Allan told me what had happened I thought it could have happened to anybody," he said.

"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Mr Kiernan, who was flying in the area at the time of the incident, said the gusty conditions would have challenged the most experienced pilots.

"I was up in the air near there when it happened and I know how strong the winds were.

"If he didn't hit the landing light it would have just ran off onto the grass."

"When he hit the light, that's what tipped it over."

Mr Fry, the Northern Rivers Aero Club vice president, had taken off from Lismore in the plane, on loan to the club from club president Wally Soward.

"He was flying the plane over to Ballina as a favour to Wally for its regular maintenance with Black Swan," he said.

"Allan is a qualified maintenance engineer who could have done the work under supervision, but he took the plane to Ballina to help Wally out."

Mr Fry, who owns his own plane, had hundreds of flying hours under his belt from his more than 20 years as a pilot.

He was treated at the scene for minor injuries by paramedics.

The incident caused a REX plane to be delayed by five minutes, and a Jetstar flight from Sydney to be delayed by an hour.

Mr Kiernan said it was fortunate Mr Fry was not seriously injured and he was confident the plane could be repaired.

"The most important things are his belts all held, the safety devices worked and Allan is okay.

"It was an incident that has happened before with ultra-light planes and will happen again."

Topics:  ballina byron gateway airport northern rivers aero club

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