Search for answers on air crash

2013-12-06 00:00

AS the families of two highly experienced pilots mourn their loss, aviation investigators are trying to piece together the final moments of a pilot’s licence test that culminated in a fatal crash.

The test ended tragically when their two-seater aircraft plunged into a sugar cane field in Richmond on Wednesday, killing them both instantly.

Although search and rescue efforts were under way from Wednesday afternoon, the plane was only discovered early yesterday morning.

Bad weather had forced the search and rescue efforts to be called off at midnight.

David Grosvenor (46) from Hillcrest was the pilot and Alick Rennie (60), an Olympic canoeist from Pietermaritzburg, was the instructor.

Rennie, an engineer, was chief Flying Instructor with the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club while Grosvenor owned a company called Dream­wings, which sold and serviced light aircraft.

Grosvenor was on the flight to renew his aircraft licence — pilots have to renew with a flight test.

The men were found still strapped into their seats, having died after sustaining head injuries and fractures.

Gareth Whitaker, speaking on behalf of the families, said Rennie and Grosvenor’s deaths were an immense loss to the flying fraternity and Pietermaritzburg community.

“A big thank you for the professional approach of the rescue services (led by Jack Haskins), SAPS, and the farming community of Richmond,” he said in a statement released yesterday.

“Thank you for the empathy and sensitivity shown to the families in this difficult time.”

Chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club, Gary Keyser, said the accident was a shock.

“Such an accident should not have happened to such good pilots but they do.”

He said the two men had thousands of flying hours between them.

“Rennie was an experienced [chief flying] instructor and a commercial pilot, and Grovener had thousands of hours flying light aircraft.”

Phindiwe Gwebu, spokesperson for the South African Civil Aviation Authority, said the cause of the crash will be investigated.

Brett Austen-Smith, general manager of Natal Canoe Club, said Rennie was an “internationally respected white water and slalom paddler”.

He represented SA on a number of occasions, including the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona when he finished 36th in the slalom kayak event. He was also very involved in mentoring young paddlers

Rennie leaves behind his wife Caron and year-old daughter Alison, as well as daughter Katy and son Iain from his previous marriage.

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