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Pilot unhurt as light aircraft veers off runway

Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

A pilot emerged unscathed after his aircraft veered off the runway upon landing at Malta International Airport yesterday.

The single engine Tecnam P92J, registered 9H-ADU, was performing a standard flight test following routine service at about noon and was cleared to land on airstrip 14 at about 12.15 p.m.

The European Flight Academy, which owns the aircraft, said that during its roll out, the point between landing and stoppage, it seems that a strong gust of crosswind caught the plane. The aircraft sustained minor damage to the undercarriage.

The flying school said that although the pilot didn't sustain injuries, he was sent for a standard medical examination.

It also explained that this was "an unfortunate incident of being caught out at the wrong time upon roll out where the pilot was not in a position to get airborne again nor did he have the distance to stop the aircraft under a normal condition".

A spokesman for the airport said that, as a result of the incident, the airstrip was closed throughout the investigations but the airport's operations remained unhindered.

An identical aircraft belonging to the same school had crash landed in a field in Luqa when attempting to land on runway 24 last September after the Tecnam's engine stalled. The pilot had no alternative but to crash land. Although the plane overturned, both pilots, Adrian Vella Gera and Swiss national Melina Hunziker, escaped with light injuries.

The dramatic crash was caused when a sudden change in either wind speed or direction within a short distance, called a wind shear, caused a sudden gain or loss of lift for the aircraft. This destabilises the plane and is one of the most challenging conditions a pilot can face.

The Department of Civil Aviation, the Malta International Airport and the school are conducting their own investigations into yesterday's mishap.

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