‘No mechanical fault in plane in which Indian pilot crashed’

By Neena Bhandari, IANS,

Sydney : A preliminary investigation report Wednesday found no indication of mechanical fault with the aircraft in which Indian trainee pilot Akash Ananth died after the wing of his Cessna 150 was clipped by another plane and he crashed in the populated Cheltenham suburb of Melbourne in August.

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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau report says the plane descended almost vertically and rolled three times before crashing. It says no one could have survived the crash.

Ananth, who hailed from Bangalore, was amongst a growing number of international students coming to Melbourne for pilot training. Sadly, for the 24-year-old student, who had trained for hours with an instructor, his third solo flight ended in tragedy. The trainee pilot and instructor in the second light plane landed safely.

The preliminary report says Ananth was conducting circuits and the second light plane was returning to Moorabbin Airport after a navigation training flight with a student and an instructor on board.

Six other aircraft were operating in the airspace in the circuit pattern for the runway and two other aircraft were also communicating with the runway air traffic controller as they taxied for takeoff.

Ananth, the report says, “conducted a touch and go on runway, but there was no radio communication between the pilot and the control tower”.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) had begun a wide-ranging investigation, including whether a communication problem or mechanical fault in the plane led to the crash on Aug 27.

Moorabbin Airport general manager Phil McConnell was quoted in the local media as saying that the airport is a base for 350 planes and helicopters, along with 10 flying schools that attract trainee pilots from the sub-continent, Asia and the Middle East.

Investigators will now examine the training of student pilots, situational awareness and aviation aerodrome procedures around the airport.

Following the accident, Victorian Premier John Brumby had suggested that trainee pilots should practise in regional areas.

“I think there’s a strong argument for saying that more of the training which occurs can be done in regional and country areas where there’s less population and where there are valuable job opportunities,” Brumby had told reporters.

Cheltenham residents have long been calling for the airport to be moved following previous fatal crashes.

The complete ATSB investigation is expected to take up to a year.