Regulars

FINAL APPROACH – 102

SO LONG OLD FRIEND

Did you ever experience having a beloved pet, that after years of wonderful memories and loyal service finally went to meet its maker? That’s how I feel right now about 24-4679, a Tecnam P92 – a little heartbroken and empty inside.

The aircraft unfortunately made a forced landing a short distance from Lethbridge (YLED). From the single picture I have seen of the incident, it must have hit pretty hard. The aircraft is almost certainly a write off. Fortunately, the pilot is ok. That is testament to the aircraft, as 4679’s final act was to protect its pilot and, in the process, destroy itself.

I did quite a bit of my training in this aircraft and completed several trips to Broken Hill, Swan Hill and Gippsland in it. I like its strengths and its foibles. What a great plane to land. All Tecnams go where you point them, but 4679 was a joy. Very forgiving. A tendency to drift off its heading if you weren’t watching kept you vigilant. I completed my conversion to RAAus in 4679 and there were many fun times. Co-pilot, Ed Jones is probably still trying to forget the day I opened my drink bottle and sprayed the entire roof of the aircraft with pressurised water…then did it again a bit later. Or the ubiquitous packet of M&Ms that would sit on the dash in long trips. And the lack of foresight in packing egg sandwiches on a long trip…

Anyone who has spent time with one particular aircraft tends to form an attachment. Each aircraft has its own personality. When you’re 60 miles north of Menindee and there’s nothing to see other than red earth stretching out in front of you, having an aircraft you could rely on was important. 4679 was such a plane. When it was buffeting like hell and a crosswind on final, 4679 would hold its line. The engine never missed a beat. Dozens of trainee pilots learned their craft in 4679. The powers that be will investigate and a dry, rational explanation for what occurred during the incident will no doubt be forthcoming. That will talk about the aircraft, not its personality. But for me 4679 gave everything to protect its pilot. If there is a Valhalla for aircraft, I like to think 4679 will be there, buzzing along into an endless horizon.