Australia begins probe into plane crash that killed Indian

August 28th, 2008 - 3:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 28 (IANS) Investigations began Thursday into the mid-air collision 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.Ananth, who hails 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 first solo flight ended in tragedy Wednesday. The trainee pilot and instructor in the second light plane landed safely at Moorabbin Airport.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has begun a wide-ranging investigation, including whether a communication problem or mechanical fault in the plane led to Wednesday’s crash.

“There is an accent problem, but that accent problem is no different from an airline captain from Air India or Air China or Singapore Airlines coming into Melbourne. It’s no different,” Royal Victorian Aero Club president Stuart Rushton told reporters.

“We have an excellent safety record and excellent training standard. They (international students) come here because the Australian licence that they leave here with stands them in very good stead for a job as a light aircraft pilot,” Rushton said.

The ATSB investigation is expected to take up to a year, with a preliminary report expected to be released within a month.

A fellow Indian student pilot posted a message on social networking site Facebook: “Plane crashes can happen any time. Even good pilots have to die in a plane crash. May u rest in peace Akash.”

Meanwhile, Victorian Premier John Brumby has 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 told reporters.

“Theoretically, it should be impossible for two planes to collide, so there’s been obviously a failure, a serious failure somewhere in the system, but I’m advised that training there has been undertaken for many, many years with a good safety record,” Brumby added.

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

ATSB investigator in-charge Michael Watson has sought the help of residents in finding the remaining pieces of the wreckage.

“At the moment, we’ve got most of the wreckage but there are a few bits that have been found in the vicinity where the aircraft collided. We want to find the bits but more importantly we want to find out where those bits landed because then we can reconstruct from the point of impact backwards which is up in the air,” Watson told reporters.

Moorabbin Airport general manager Phil McConnell was quoted in The Age newspaper 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.

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