THE wife of a Forbes pilot has praised emergency services and fellow aviators after a dramatic mid-air emergency over Forbes last Saturday afternoon.
Forbes pilot Derek Neville lost consciousness on a joy flight between Forbes and Eugowra on Saturday, leaving 19-year-old passenger Troy Jenkins at the controls of the light plane for almost an hour.
Mr Neville regained consciousness and was able to safely land the plane, but not before a team of ambulance paramedics, police, fire and rescue and other emergency services assembled at Forbes airport, expecting a crash landing.
Mr Neville’s wife Merle said local emergency services and other pilots participating in a gliding competition at Forbes airport handled the drama well.
“They had a lot of help, up in the sky and on the ground,” Mrs Neville said.
Merle said a visiting pilot Paul Reynolds was able to give Mr Jenkins some mid-air assistance, helping him to maintain a holding pattern until the pilot regained consciousness.
“Troy called for help and a tug pilot from the [Southern Cross] gliding club picked up the call and had Troy circling until all the emergency services could get out to the airport,” she said.
Troy Jenkins, who lives near Canowindra, had been a passenger on several of Mr Neville’s flights before, but had no experience at the controls.
Mrs Neville said the ordeal must have felt like an eternity for the young man, who visited Derek in Orange Hospital on Sunday.
“It probably felt like two hours to Troy, but we don’t really know how long [Derek] was out,” she said.
“Troy was pretty gutsy really, for a young bloke with no [piloting] experience.”
Mrs Neville said doctors had not been able to pinpoint why her husband blacked out, but tests on his heart had not detected any problem.
“Derek is a bit bemused by it all, because he has no recollection of what happened of course.”
Forbes police said emergency services personnel gathered at Forbes Airport at about 1.25pm on Saturday and prepared for a crash landing.
Disaster was averted about 20 minutes later when Mr Neville regained consciousness.
While the pilot was groggy and disoriented, he and his passenger were able to perform a bumpy, but safe landing about 1.50pm.
Police said the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) had been notified of the incident and would investigate further.