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Two aviators escape unhurt in crash landing

Pilots Adrian Vella Gera (centre) and Swiss national Melina Hunziker (left) who luckily escaped unhurt yesterday when their Tecnam P-92J Echo single engine plane crashed in a field in Luqa. The aircraft landed in the vicinity of a fireworks factory. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Pilots Adrian Vella Gera (centre) and Swiss national Melina Hunziker (left) who luckily escaped unhurt yesterday when their Tecnam P-92J Echo single engine plane crashed in a field in Luqa. The aircraft landed in the vicinity of a fireworks factory. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Two lucky pilots escaped a dramatic crash yesterday when they walked out practically unscathed from their light aircraft after its engine appears to have stalled.

The aircraft was approaching runway 24 in Luqa when the aircraft's apparently engine failed and the pilot had no option but to make a crash landing.

The plane eventually ended up overturned in a field, a few metres from a farmhouse.

Both pilots - Adrian Vella Gera and Swiss national Melina Hunziker - exited their Tecnam P-92J Echo single-engine plane unassisted and with only very light injuries.

In fact, Mr Vella Gera was seen on site shortly after the incident, giving details to investigators who were called in to assist in an inquiry.

Captain Nigel James Dunkerly, from the European Flight Academy, which owns the aircraft, said an Armed Forces of Malta helicopter happened to be hovering over the area at the time and made its way to the crash site immediately.

The airport's emergency services were scrambled after the pilot sent a May Day message just before the crash landing.

Capt. Dunkerly said the aircraft crashed at about 1.10 p.m. Following standard procedures, the pilots "secured the aircraft" as soon as they made their way out of it.

Both pilots hold a commercial pilot's licence, though police sources said they appear to have been on a training flight.

What led to the incident was being investigated, Capt. Dunkerly said, although the police sources said an engine failure was reported.

Aviation sources, on the other hand, said the runway the aircraft was approaching is synonymous with windshear, especially on a day like yesterday. Windshear is a sudden change in either wind speed or direction within a short distance, causing a sudden gain or loss of lift for aircraft. It can easily destabilise an aircraft and is one of the most challenging conditions a pilot can face.

An AFM Bulldog fixed-wing aircraft crash landed near Dwejra in Gozo last month. The two crew members suffered slight injuries. The single-engined Bulldog TMk1, which was on a coastal patrol, was extensively damaged. A micro burst - a strong sudden downward thrust of wind - probably caused the crash.

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