A Melbourne pilot killed in a microlight aircraft crash during filming of a reality TV show should not have been in the air that fateful day, a senior flying instructor says.
The plan was for Ian Cook to be on the ground as a safety marshal, keeping an eye out for “whirlywinds” as Yarrawonga Aerodrome manager Peter McLean took contestants of Amazing Race Vietnam on flying circuits.
But a Victorian coroner has been told producers wanted a cameraman in the air, and the generous Mr Cook volunteered to take him up.
Mr Cook, 60, and Sydney cameraman Quoc Huong Vu, 43, were killed on impact when the “trike” aircraft nosedived into the ground on a warm day in March 2016.
Last minute decision
The aerodrome manager said he was busy taking contestants on flights for the reality show when Mr Cook decided he would take to the air with the cameraman Mr Vu.
“I needed Ian on the ground,” Mr McLean told an inquest into the deaths of Mr Cook and Mr Vu on Tuesday. “But I can’t stop private pilots from flying.”
Fellow pilot and witness to the crash Laurie Thompson said Mr Cook put his hand up to help producers by offering to take up Mr Vu.
“They were very keen to do all the filming they could,” Mr Thompson said.
He said Mr Cook’s aircraft appeared to be flying unusually low before the accident, possibly to get a better shot.
“We’re always told not to fly low,” Mr Thompson added.
“I can only speculate, but maybe his passenger asked him to get a bit closer so he could get a better shot.”
But a lawyer representing Mr Vu, Richard Royle, noted it was the pilot’s decision to maintain safety and make decisions about the flight path.
Mr Thompson did not know what caused the crash but speculated that the camera leaning out could have interrupted the airstream, causing the trike to “yaw” to one side.
Two “dust devils” or whirlywinds were also spotted over the aerodrome, however Mr Cook was aware of these and it’s not thought they caused the crash, coroner Audrey Jamieson was told.
She is investigating the crash before making findings and recommendations, which may help to improve microlight aircraft safety in future.
In the Amazing Race reality show franchise, contestants race around the world in teams of two, completing tasks and challenges along the way.