The Cessna resting in banksias south of the airport after Friday's dramatic landing.
The Cessna resting in banksias south of the airport after Friday's dramatic landing. Bruce Thomas

Boss praises pilot's manoeuvre

A STRANGE noise alerted experienced skydivers on board the single engine Cessna that something was wrong.

As the light aircraft lost power on descent about 1200 metres above the ground on Friday, the pilot told his passengers to brace for a crash landing.

Harnessed inside the plane, the skydivers say they contemplated jumping from the struggling aircraft.

But the pilot made a split-second decision to increase airspeed in the hope the plane would reach the runway.

Steve Hill of Coffs City Skydivers commended the actions of the 23-year-old in bringing the plane safely down.

“After the plane lost power, the pilot proceeded to lower the nose of the aircraft, building airspeed to transfer into lift for the best possible landing,” Mr Hill said.

“This was a brave manoeuvre, increasing the glide range of the aircraft so as to create the safest possible outcome for his passengers and increase the chance of making the runway.

“The pilot, Hughie, performed to a very high professional standard and so not a single injury was suffered by pilot or passengers.

“Luck did not play a part in this incident at all, rather professionalism and good management came to the fray, creating an outcome expected of a skydiving pilot.”

Overcoming their fear of crashing as well as their fear of heights, some of the skydivers involved in the crash landing, returned to the skies again on Saturday.

The Cessna was one of a number of aircraft contracted for use by the skydivers.

It’s believed the onus of salvaging the crashed Cessna will rest with insurers.

Given the plane’s location, in the thick of two-metre high Banksia bushes, a costly recovery mission is expected.

The aircraft will either need to be dismantled or moved by helicopters, cranes or trucks to be recovered.

After the crash, more than 20 emergency vehicles rushed to the scene, accessing the plane via a fire trail running parallel to the Coffs Harbour railway track.

As rescuers tended to the passengers, media gathered on scene.

The aircraft was cordoned off by police, meaning that only the wing of the plane could be sighted by photographers standing on top of a fire truck at the nearest clearing.

Only did the full extent of the damage become evident from a chartered helicopter flight over the crash site.

Read more: Plane crash probe continues

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