The pilot who died in the crash of an ultralight aircraft in Kuusiku on Sunday had been very experienced, and the plane new, a colleague told ERR’s TV news on Monday.
Help arrived too late for the pilot and the passenger of the ultralight trike: the 58-year-old pilot and his 39-year-old passenger died in the accident. The plane burned after the crash, and rescue teams had to put out a forest fire in the immediate area as well, media reported on Monday morning.
The investigation of the crash is still ongoing, but according to what is known so far the aircraft descended into the forest, where it hit tree branches and eventually crashed. Authorities suspect that the reason for the accident was a wing strut that broke.
There are a total of 15 aircraft of the type registered in Estonia. Flying a so-called trike requires a specific pilot’s license, of which only six have been issued here. But there are amateur pilots as well, along with a number of unregistered aircraft.
Since 2005 there have now been three accidents involving trikes, two of which involved at least one fatality.
According to experienced amateur pilot Ants Kivimäe, the pilot of the crashed aircraft was very experienced. The trike he had flown that day had been new and just recently checked by the Estonian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA).
“I think the thing has been flying for three or four years, but flying a lot. The man really was a very experienced pilot. I can say that where I fly an average of 50 hours, he flew 100 hours a year,” Kivimäe told ERR’s Aktuaalne kaamera newscast.
Kivimäe and his colleagues think that it wasn’t a broken wing strut that caused the accident, but rather one of the cables attaching the fuselage pod to the wing. “If these fail, there’s nothing you can do,” Kivimäe said.
Though there have only been six licenses issued for trike pilots, Kivimäe thinks that in reality the number of amateur pilots is roughly 50. There were also more than 15 trikes in the country, but that getting them registered wasn’t very popular.
“Unfortunately people don’t register them, out of ignorance, maybe because it’s expensive—the fees that come with it, the technical checks, and so on. Maybe that’s what people are afraid of,” director-general of the ECAA, Kristjan Telve, explained to ERR.
Telve added that they had run a campaign in 2011 and 2012 that aimed at getting these aircraft registered. Still, getting the planes registered was voluntary, as most of Estonia’s airspace was unchecked, including the area in Rapla County where the trike crashed on Sunday.
Editor: Dario Cavegn