Ultralight flight ends up ditched

KENT Lee will never forget his first solo flight yesterday.

The businessman and trainee ultralight pilot ended upside down in a ditch at Coffs Harbour Airport with a broken propeller at the end of the flight about 9am yesterday.

Mr Lee said he 'lost a bit of skin' but was otherwise unhurt and would have been prepared to go back up immediately if there had been another plane available.

He said the accident had certainly made his first solo memorable 'but it would be nice if it hadn't happened'.

Mr Lee, who began learning to fly in June 2008, has about 27 hours flying time under his belt.

Coffs Harbour Aero Club chief instructor Charlie Smith said his student had made a good landing in calm conditions in the Aero Club's Jabiru 170, but the plane had then 'yawed' to the left, pitched over on to its back and tipped into a ditch. He said aircraft 'wanted to go one way' when they touched down and this was corrected using the rudder.

Mr Smith, an experienced pilot with more than 14,000 hours flying time, said the damaged plane, which came to rest in the south-east corner of the airport, would be examined when it was retrieved to see whether the rudder had jammed.

Mr Smith said a Jabiru 170 could be registered in either the VH or ultralight category. He instructs students on both ultralights and larger aircraft and said the Aero Club had authority to train in the controlled zone at Coffs Harbour Airport.

The relatively low cost of operating light aircraft has made ultralights increasingly popular.

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