A pilot who died while fighting bushfires in NSW is being mourned by family and friends as a man “at the top of his game”, with a job that demanded skill, precision and daring.
Father-of-three David Black, 43, died when his Dromader aircraft crashed while he was water-bombing fires in the state’s south on Thursday morning.
Reports say one of the plane’s wings fell off before it plummeted to the ground at Wirritin in Budawang National Park, 40 kilometres west of Ulladulla.
Mr Black ran an aerial spraying business at Trangie, in central-west NSW, employing about 15 people.
Rebel Ag has nine aircraft, and supplies equipment and pilots to the Rural Fire Service (RFS).
The experienced pilot, his wife Julie and their children had lived in the town for about two years after moving from a farm near Forbes in NSW.
Although he was fairly new to the area, Mr Black’s death has shocked the local community, Narromine mayor Bill McAnally told AAP.
“He was very well known in the district,” Mr McAnally said.
“Very well respected too, in anything that he did.”
The mayor said Mr Black would be sorely missed.
“We can lose our houses and our possessions which are replaceable, but when you lose a life you don’t get that back, you don’t get a second chance at it,” he said.
“He was a wonderful family man, well-respected businessman – not only in our community, but the far and wider community.”
Chief executive of the Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia, Phil Hurst, said Mr Black had been water-bombing fires for the RFS for a number of years.
He said his friend and colleague was “at the top of his game” – fastidious about safety and dedicated to making water-bombing a more professional segment of the industry.
Mr Hurst said he didn’t know how many days Mr Black had been involved in the most recent fire emergency before being called to help in the Ulladulla area, but he knew the job was tough.
“It’s extremely rugged terrain, those sorts of areas often create significant turbulence,” he said.
“It would have been a difficult job on the day.”
Mr Black’s body was recovered on Friday after fires, strong winds and difficult terrain made it too difficult to retrieve on Thursday.
At the time of his death, Mr Black had logged around 10,000 flying hours, predominantly in aerial application, his family says.
Authorities are investigating what caused the crash.