Pilot dies in Vic light plane crash

Accidents involving small aircraft have claimed the lives of an 85-year-old enthusiast in Victoria and another pilot in the Hunter region of NSW.

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The plane belonging to the Victorian man crashed on Wednesday afternoon at Lethbridge, near Geelong, while the pilot’s wife looked on.

Police and aviation investigators are yet to find the cause of the crash, but witnesses said they saw the man slumped behind the controls not long before the plane fell from the sky.

The pilot in NSW died when his light plane crashed and burst into flames in bushland at Sawyers Gully, near Maitland, about 4.30pm on Wednesday.

Emergency services found the plane well alight and the male pilot, the only person on board, dead. They remain at the scene.

Lethbridge Airport owner Garry Baum says the Victorian pilot, from Altona, had more than 800 hours of flying experience.

Mr Baum said the man took advantage of the fine weather and had not long been in the air before he heard a sharp drop in engine revs, then the crash.

He raced to the crash site with other witnesses including a retired doctor.

They found the plane intact with very little damage and were surprised to find the man slumped at the controls.

“I’m devastated,” Mr Baum told AAP.

“His wife was watching him fly; they’d come down here often.

“It’s devastating to lose someone you know. He’d always be very good to talk to and he’d always wave hello.”

Mr Baum said the man had been coming to the airport for six years and had bought his two-seater Sonex aircraft 12 months ago.

A NSW man who lives near the Sawyers Gully crash site told The Maitland Mercury he saw the plane come down end over end.

“I said to my wife `he’s not going to be able to pull out of this’,” he said.

“He fell below the tree line and we didn’t see him pull back up.”

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