Hawk training jets.
Hawk training jets. www.airforce.gov.au

RAAF jet in high drama at Coffs airport

IT had all the hallmarks of the movie Top Gun, and a happy ending to boot for two Air Force pilots.

Two RAAF Hawks, based at Williamtown near Newcastle, were on a routine training mission when one of the pilots declared an 'airborne emergency' about 10:45am yesterday and diverted to Coffs Harbour Airport.

The Air Force is investigating the probability the aircraft clipped a power line approximately 25 nautical miles east of Armidale.

Coffs Harbour rescue crews, who had been at the airport on Tuesday for a training drill to prepare them for such situations, were scrambled to the airport. Police immediately closed off public access to the facility.

The jet circled the ocean so the crew of the other Hawk could check it for damage and to reduce its fuel load in preparation for a landing.

At 11.23am three fire vehicles, including a hazardous materials unit, and an ambulance drove into position beside the main runway to await the arrival of the Hawk.

Seven minutes later, the two planes flew in from the north, one shadowing the other. The aircraft at the centre of the emergency landed safely with its chute trailing behind. The other Hawk remained in the air and returned to the Williamtown base.

The jet, with its canopy open and escorted by the emergency vehicles, taxied to the airport apron just to the north of the passenger terminal. On arrival, the pilots were greeted by police and other rescue personnel.

They appeared to be unharmed.

Two large holes near the tip of the jet's left wing were clearly visible.

Two defence teams were last night travelling to Coffs Harbour to investigate the incident and to conduct a damage assessment.

Passenger flights and general aviation flights at the airport were not affected by the incident.

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