THE experience of pilot Ray Parker may have been what saved his life and the life of his passenger in a glider crash on Sunday afternoon.
Mr Parker, the Gympie Gliding Club’s chief flight instructor, and his passenger, a new member of the club on his first flight, were trying to land the plane when the crash occurred.
The pair had been flying in fine conditions to the west of the Gympie Airport at Kybong just after noon, when a fast- moving rain squall approached the airport from the south-east. Mr Parker decided to head for home.
Gympie Gliding Club secretary Judith Smith said Mr Parker was in heavy rain and had limited visibility when he approached the northern entrance to the runway.
MRS Smith said the glider was caught in a sudden downdraught caused by the rain squall and dropped unexpectedly from the air.
The glider hit a barbed wire fence before crashing into a grassed area at the end of the runway.
Mr Parker and his passenger walked away from the crash with back injuries and were taken to hospital.
Mrs Smith sang the praises of the flight instructor.
“If it had been anyone else caught in that position, I doubt they would have made it back,” she said.
“Ray’s experience is what got them back to the ground.”
Gympie Gliding Club pilot David Rees agreed with Mrs Smith’s assessment of the crash.
He said a glider coming in to land would be travelling at more than 100kmh.
That, coupled with a sudden downdraught and no visibility, would make the aircraft very hard to control.
“When a glider hits a downdraught high in the air, you have time to recover,” Mr Rees said.
“But not when you are that close to the ground.
“I would fly with him any day.”
The crash snapped the fuselage of the ASK 21 glider in half (near the tail), damaged body work under the cockpit and smashed the canopy.
Mrs Smith said it looked like the $140,000 glider may be unable to be repaired.
The glider is the only two-seat aircraft the club has. It will not be able to train new pilots until the glider is repaired or a new one is sourced.
“It had just completed its annual inspection,” Mrs Smith said.
She said members of the club had spent seven days pulling the aircraft apart and testing everything for safety.
It was then taken for a test flight and signed off as safe.
Ray’s experience is what got them back.
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