Bunking kids in plane getaway

2017-04-02 07:14
The plane a group of children drove through a hangar after bunking school this week. Picture: Pieter van Endt

The plane a group of children drove through a hangar after bunking school this week. Picture: Pieter van Endt

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Four young children from a Plettenberg Bay township who sneaked into an aeroplane hangar got the shock of their lives last Thursday when they managed to start a plane.

Not only did the four children, aged between seven and 11, manage to start the engine, they also applied full throttle, causing the plane to surge forward and smash a hole in the hangar door before a nearby pilot could intervene.

Pieter van Endt, who is responsible for operational control at CemAir at the airport, told City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport that the plane’s propeller was still turning at full power when he managed to reach it.

“All I could do was to shut the power off before the fuel caught fire,” he said.

Smoke was already billowing out of the hot engine by the time Van Endt managed to shut it off.

The fire department had managed to detain two of the troublemakers – two older children who were also in the plane managed to run away.

“I didn’t think about anything except saving the situation and doing what I could,” said Van Endt.

Anton Valks of Sedgefield, one of the four owners of the plane involved, a Jabiru 430, said the four kids appeared to be from the KwaNokuthula informal settlement near the airport.

The morning before the incident they had decided to bunk school and somehow managed to hide in the hangar after crawling through a nearby hole in the fence.

“One of my partners, Roger Fischer, had just returned from a pleasure flight with the aeroplane. He parked it in the hangar, locked it and left. He didn’t know there were children inside because he didn’t see them.

“There was also a brand-new Volkswagen Caravelle and a boat worth R5m in the hangar.

"The kids first helped themselves to a few drinks from the boat’s fridge before getting into the plane. It’s suspected they found the key under the mat in the cockpit.

"The Jabiru starts like a car, so the children probably just managed to turn the right knobs and levers by chance and turned the key.

“They pulled away with so much force that the plane ran over the chocks in front of the wheels. The wings kept the plane from bursting right through the door.”

Two younger children were still scared witless inside the plane, but two older children managed to escape.

According to Van Endt, the children’s principal and parents fetched them.

Manfred van Rooyen, senior operational officer at the airport, confirmed the incident.

Captain Malcolm Pojie, a spokesperson for the police in the Western Cape, said charges of housebreaking and malicious damage to property totalling R1.5m are being investigated.

The police have already met with the parents of all four children.

The National Prosecuting Authority will have to decide if it will prosecute. According to Valks, the plane is worth about R600 000. It is insured.

“We still haven’t been able to open the bent door so we can have the plane looked at to determine if the airframe has been damaged.

“If it has been damaged, the entire plane will have to rebuilt. But the most important thing is that the children are okay. It was a freak accident and hopefully they definitely won’t try it again any time soon.”

Read more on:    plettenberg bay

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