Train hits plane after emergency landing

2012-05-11 14:54

Pietermaritzburg - Having survived a crash-landing in the Midlands on Thursday afternoon, a Pretoria pilot and his passenger cheated death a second time minutes later when a train smashed into their plane.

The four-seater Cessna, with pilot Gerald van Zyl at the controls, had flown in from Durban’s Virginia Airport to a farm in Nottingham Road, where he and his passenger did fly fishing. The men, who are said to be from Pretoria, were flying back to Gauteng in the afternoon when they apparently lost their bearings.

They spotted the private Zinkwazi airfield near Michaelhouse school in Balgowan, and they tried to make an emergency landing.

Overshot runway

However, the plane overshot the runway, went down a slope at the end of the runway and landed on a railway line.

Fortunately both men walked away uninjured, although they were jolted as the plane crashed over large rocks, damaging its undercarriage, smashing its nose and severely damaging the engine. The nose wheel also broke off.

Just minutes later, a cargo train clipped a wing of the stricken plane. It appeared the train driver had been told of the crash and had slowed down his approach.

Van Zyl said he would not comment on the incident as it was under investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority.

“All I can say is that we are fine: no injuries or bruises. We are very very lucky that it [the crash landing] went the way it did.”

Jan Jefferies, owner of the Zinkwazi airfield and the first person at the scene, said the crash could have been a lot worse.

Train tried to brake

“When I got there and saw no people around, I thought they were still trapped in the plane. But then I saw them outside, taking their things out of the plane. They were fine. I had to tow the plane off the twin railway lines as the train was approaching slowly. I believe the driver had been told to slow down because of the crash. He was trying to brake, but the train still crashed into the plane’s wing.”

Jefferies said the plane landed in the middle of the runway. “He should have taken off again, but instead the plane went down the slope and crashed at the railway line.”

Jefferies was unimpressed with the unauthorised landing. “During the brief conversation we had, they told me that they were going to land and then call me, but that is not how these things are done and I did not see any emergency.”

Nevertheless, he was happy that no one was killed or injured.

“Any landing that you walk away from is a good landing,” he said.

This was the fourth plane crash in KwaZulu-Natal in the last two weeks.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.

  • rynhardt.ferreira - 2012-05-11 14:59

    Wow, it definitely wasn't your time yet. Glad you all made it out ok

      mfrater - 2012-05-11 16:14

      Piss poor planning and flying from the Pilot. 1. Clearly inexperienced in that he did not plan his flight, or fly that plan correctly (thus getting lost), 2. Clearly inexperienced in the fact that he could not plan the landing for the threshold, instead of touching down half way down the runway. 3. Again inexperience shows by the fact that he didn't go-around after realising he was way too deep down the runway to make a safe stopping distance. The CAA really needs to start tightening up the training at flight schools, these kind of accidents are completely due to lack of experience / training and totally avoidable.

      boltonbarry - 2012-05-11 19:30

      WOW MWF glad to hear you were a passenger in the plane and that you are ok after that incident

      Paul - 2012-05-12 15:38

      MWF. All things are not always as they appear! Harsh comments from the little info available, dont you think?

      jbotes2 - 2012-05-12 18:05

      I have to agree with Paul. Your assumptions carry little weight considering the limited information available.

      Multi - 2012-05-13 11:36

      @MWF...I agree with you in all aspects. These are not "harsh" comments, they are facts! This pilot was supposed to know exactly what to do in this case as it is called a "precautionary landing". There are set standards and rules for this of witch he should have done a low level fly by and check airfield length to his watch and speed..then go around and land. Its like flying your plane into a mountain!!! Not adhering to navigation rules, not checking Q&H settings, not flying on QFE, not studying his route to know the terrain, not adhering to the semi-circular rules...Basic, fundamental, practical flying and good airman ship...we call it "bad habits". Thanks to my instructors that drilled these rules into my head at Rustenburg Flying club!!!!!!!!

      Paul - 2012-05-13 20:04

      @Multi. Let’s look at some alternatives to the possible “facts” as you call them.1) Perhaps he landed deep with plenty runway left but had a break failure. 2) Perhaps he did a low level inspection and decided the first ½ off runway looked full of potholes or loose stones, and then had a break failure.3) Perhaps he decided to “ go around” and had engine failure 4) Perhaps he had a sudden tailwind component and carb ice on the go around due to faulty carb heat(you weren’t there to know what the Met was, or were you?) 5) Perhaps it was an emergency bladder landing! Point is that from the information available we can’t crucify the pilot….yet!! To AS-U-ME as they say is spelt like this “ it makes an As of U and ME.

      Multi - 2012-05-13 20:45

      @ are right, there could have been a number of reasons for this accident. If there was a "pan" or "may day" call it would made the difference. My point is we loose too many good people because of "bad habits" in aircraft accidents. Too keep it safe as possible do your checks, follow procedures, do your navigation to the point....and don't pick your nose on finals!!! I am just glad they are OK and live another day....but here is lessons to learn.

      Preshen - 2012-05-14 08:24

      It must feature on Ripples believe it or not

  • Pule - 2012-05-11 15:00

    The Gautrain.Opening in cinema as soon

  • doug.gass1 - 2012-05-11 15:03

    This is why I don't fly fish.

      Squeegee - 2012-05-11 17:10

      Good one, Doug.

  • Marion - 2012-05-11 15:16

    Glad you guys are safe. Wishing you many happier landings.

  • indianajohn - 2012-05-11 15:17

    If this kind of thing happened more often, we wouldn't need computer games. Imagine what goes through a train driver's head when he sees an aeroplane on the track!

  • Bongani - 2012-05-11 15:23

    I must say this was full reporting which deserves a bells. We hardly get this in our days, you are always left with questions than answers. Guys will be alright, small planes are just a disaster waiting to happen. I am glad i can not afford it.

      Gordon - 2012-05-13 10:22

      so are we! 99% of small plane crashes are pilot error. Too brave, too clever, lack of planning, lack of training. Same goes for car accidents, except the chance of dying in your car is many times higher than in a plane.

  • pjcbs - 2012-05-11 15:30

    Well, sadly their flight was derailed, but atleast that had a smashing time. Glad they are fine.

      William - 2012-05-13 17:24

      good one!

  • Ted - 2012-05-11 15:33

    I think one of the passengers was holding a cat! Glad they are ok.

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-05-11 15:41

    Emergency! The fly fisherman should have caught the bearings with his fishing tackle.

  • Bulelani - 2012-05-11 16:57

    The most wierd encounter, a plane and train accident!!

  • mknnko003 - 2012-05-11 17:16

    Glad you`re safe...enough about the Politics.

      Paul - 2012-05-13 13:55

      4 sure lets talk about something else

  • Cronje - 2012-05-14 01:48

    To me? I'll never set foot in a Cessna. They are built to drop.

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