Editorial: Pilot's last thought of protecting others

23:00, Jan 23 2013

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)  report into a crash that claimed the lives of two men in Feilding a year ago must bring some sense of finality for the family and friends left behind.

On a crystal clear, beautiful Wellington Anniversary Day last year, Palmerston North man Ralph Saxe and his mate Brett Ireland, a former Manawatu man who had shifted to Australia, went out for a flight in Dr Saxe's Yak-52 plane.

They never returned, after the plane crashed in Timona Park mid-morning.

With any such tragic event there is plenty of speculation around the cause. Was it pilot error, mechanical error, or was it some other factor?

Dr Saxe's widow, Joanne, was adamant that her husband was a meticulous and safety-conscious pilot. The CAA report bore that fact out.

A loose screwdriver jammed a control inside the cockpit, making it impossible for Dr Saxe to pull the plane up after an aerobatic roll.


The report also made mention of Dr Saxe's heroic last-ditch move to avoid impact with nearby houses on the western side of Timona Park.

Moments before the crash he performed a roll to the right, which was interpreted as a way of avoiding those houses.

Given the built-up area around Timona Park, it goes to show that the terrible accident may have been a lot worse had the plane hit anything other than the park.

As tough as the deaths of the two men were to take, there must be some comfort in the fact that Dr Saxe's final thoughts were not of himself, but of others who could have been in harm's way.

The report also made a practical recommendation, too, that owners of similar planes inspect them for loose objects before flying and to install a barrier to stop anything from getting lodged in the controls.

Those recommendations may be too late for Dr Saxe and Mr Ireland, but they might save lives in the future.


We can now count three of our editorial staff as bloggers, all on vastly different topics.

Our digital editor Greer Berry (nee McDonald) has been blogging for years on different topics. Her latest blog topic is weddings, called Ready or Knot and can be found under ‘Weddings' at stuff.co.nz's Life and Style section.

Journalist Jono Galuszka covers the life and times of a home brewer and beer connoisseur, while Chris Hyde writes about life as a South Islander living in Manawatu in Outside The Square. Both can be found under blogs in the Opinion section of manawatustandard.co.nz.

Be sure to have a read and to have your say on them.

Manawatu Standard