PNG pilot just returned to flying
THE Sunshine Coast pilot who survived a horrifying crash in Papua New Guinea that killed 28 people, had only recently returned to his passion of flying.
After years of running a home brew business on the Coast, Bill Spencer started teaching young pilots at Maroochydore Airport and then returned to flying with Airlines PNG a year ago.
The 64-year-old was only a few shifts away from heading back to his Bli Bli home when he survived the horror crash in the PNG jungle on Thursday night.
Yesterday his Coast-based family gathered by his bedside at the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
Mr Spencer suffered leg injuries in the terrible crash, which claimed all but four of the 32 people on board the plane.
"He's pretty shattered," son-in-law Conal Hanna told the Daily.
Mr Hanna, the husband of Mr Spencer's daughter Meghan, said the family was in shock.
They're extremely relieved that Bill has survived but are feeling quite emotional about those that have lost their lives," Mr Hanna said.
"Their thoughts and prayers are with all those in Papua New Guinea who are going through the grieving process."
The flight was believed to be carrying parents of students attending the Divine World University in Madang, for a thanksgiving ceremony this weekend.
Mr Spencer was the pilot of the Airlines PNG plane in one of his final shifts of a three-week roster.
His family, including wife Mary and son Ben, were by his side yesterday after he was flown to Brisbane from Port Moresby.
Mr Hanna said his father-in-law had been excited about returning to work in PNG when he took the job last year.
Old colleagues remembered him from when he worked in the region 20 years ago.
He and Mary moved to the Sunshine Coast 10 years ago and ran Stews Home Brew at Maroochydore.
When a job teaching pilot students for Singapore Airlines opened up at the Maroochydore Airport, Mr Spencer jumped at the opportunity.
Mr Hanna said his father-in-law could not resist the new job in PNG.
"He's addicted to flying. He loves it," he said.
"Outside of his family and his dog, it's probably his number one passion in life."
Mrs Spencer was also formerly an air hostess and Mr Hanna said the tight-knit flying community had sent messages of support from around the world.
Mr Hanna said an investigation would look at what caused the crash but initial reports have suggested it was a mechanical fault and not pilot error.
"I think whilst they're relieved Bill's okay, the reality is a lot of other people have died.
"They feel that.
"This is the start of probably a pretty long process where I'm sure there will be an investigation.
"Bill will have a long journey ahead of him."