A favourite aerobatic pilot of Warbirds Over Wanaka has been rescued after his plane crashed in the Aegean Sea.
Jurgis Kairys, 62, has been a star of the biennial show since 2004.
According to a report from the Baltic News Service, his plane crashed on Wednesday. The Lithuanian survived but had to drift on a piece of wreckage for several hours while waiting for help.
Kairys told BNS the crash was caused by an engine failure of his personal plane SU-26 at 1000 metres.
He was flying from Kavala, in the north of Greece, to Athens, in the south. He had to parachute jump and landed in the sea.
"There was an unexpected engine failure around half an hour after I took off from Kavala,'' he said.
''I had to wait for about two hours and 40 minutes. Not to wait, to be more precise, I was swimming towards an island and thought I would get there in the morning. But I was swimming very slowly as clothes obstructed. I tied myself to a part of the plane to be more visible."
A rescue helicopter arrived after almost three hours, but it flew twice over the wreckage after initially missing the pilot.
Kairys is recognised as the best master of unlimited flights in the world in from 1996-2006.
He has developed several manoeuvres including the "Kairys Wheel" and has helped develop and manufacture his own aerobatic aircraft.
According to Wikipedia his most famous stunt is flying inverted under a 7m pedestrian bridge in 2000.
At this year's Warbirds Over Wanaka he raced against Greg Murphy in a Lamborghini and took part in a special WWI Commemorative event which saw six WWI fighters dog fight over Lake Wanaka.
His near miss follows the death of pilot Lee Behel in Nevada earlier this month.
The 62-year-old was a guest racer at this year's Warbirds Over Wanaka event. He died after the single-engine experimental GP5 jet he owned crashed at the Reno national championship air races.
- The Southland Times