View Full Version : 89 yr old ex-Spitfire pilot in miracle landing!

12-21-2008, 06:03 PM
Article from "The Australian" -

WHEN the plane Ken Andrews was flying in collided with a Cessna half a kilometre above the suburbs of Sydney, decades of training and experience, forged in the thick of war, kicked in.

The 89-year-old former Spitfire ace -- described by military colleagues as the most experienced instructor in the business -- said his first thought when the collision occurred was, "Oh no, this can't be", but he never lost his composure.

Calmly, he took control of the aircraft from a young and undoubtedly frightened 25-year-old student pilot.

"He emitted a yell," Mr Andrews said of his young charge yesterday.

"A mayday call followed, a description of the location and the aeroplane held on steady course until Bankstown," Mr Andrews told The Australian.

The veteran of World War II and the Korean war went on to perform what police described yesterday as a "miracle" landing.

Tragically, the Cessna plunged into the rear of a house in Casula in Sydney's southwest, killing the plane's two passengers, pilot instructor Joanne Ethell, 20, and her young student, Chandrika Gaur, 18.

Reflecting on the mid-air accident and how he survived, Mr Andrews said his many experiences shaped his response.

"People are what the discipline of their former experiences dictate," he said. "One can't help but carry that discipline and reaction into daily habits."

Mr Andrews was reluctant to talk about his wartime exploits but his son, Warren, described how his father had been shot down in New Guinea during World War II. Fleeing the enemy, he hid under logs and debris and floated down a river to escape "just hoping the crocodiles wouldn't notice the addition to the logs," Warren said.

"He rarely talks about his wartime experiences. Only occasionally, like when we fly over and see crocodiles in a river and he'll say, 'Remember that time'.

"There are some pretty distasteful things you have to do to get away from enemy territory.

"My father is from a generation that came through depression and war."

He said his father had described the crash as "a sudden impact and a loud bang". "It happened so quickly and it was difficult to determine the detail of what happened," Warren Andrews said. "He is fitter than me. He has a boat on the harbour and regularly takes part in family activities."

Despite not knowing the two women killed in the accident, Mr Andrews expressed his sadness and condolences at the loss of "two beautiful people".

He visited Basair yesterday to pass on his condolences.

"And that gesture was well received, without any recrimination of any sort," he said.

The visit came as distraught parents of Ms Ethell, Kay and Gryff, yesterday visited the crumpled wreckage that marked the end of their daughter's fatal flight over Sydney.

The couple, and another man believed to be a relative, stayed at the site for nearly 20 minutes, arms wrapped around one another as they entered the backyard.

Family members said they had been devastated by the death of their daughter, who had graduated as an instructor only this year.

12-21-2008, 06:44 PM
The article does not say anything about the type of plane the two survivors were in. Too bad the two young ladies were killed. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif

12-21-2008, 08:07 PM
I believe the accident may have occurred because CASA (the Australian equivalent of the FAA) have restricted a lot of the airspace over Sydney for commercial flights only and have virtual all GA aviation for a city of 3 million converging on a single very busy point for landing at the western Sydney Bankstown airport.

But I have never actually flown out of Sydney so someone that is more familiar with the ATC situation there may have more info on whether that is actually true or not.

12-21-2008, 08:57 PM

89 years old, still flying, and still handling situations most would stain their pants in!

He should link up with Oskar!


Great story, Thanks for sharing it. I am glad he made it and will pray for the families of the others who did not.

All the best,


12-21-2008, 11:23 PM
I'm wondering how close her family are to the other Ethells that Jeff Ethell came from?

12-22-2008, 12:10 AM
i see no description of the miracle landing. Was he missing a control surface and yet landed?

12-22-2008, 02:38 AM
The one picture I saw of the aircraft that made it had it looking intact.

Any damage must have been superficial or limited to the propellor (deadstick maybe).

The only miracle is that the old bloke didn't have a heart attack and die on the spot, the rest is just good old fashioned skill and experience not a miracle.

12-22-2008, 06:02 AM
too bad that the two young people died.
the article is somewhat poor in information.
no info on plane type?
what the damage was and how did he got it down?
what caused the collision?

12-22-2008, 10:24 AM
Tragic, especially when there where so young people http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_frown.gif

12-22-2008, 10:38 AM
No offense to anyone and with all due respect to the deceased but is it just me or is a 20yr old flight instructor a bad idea?

12-22-2008, 12:16 PM
http://www.dailymotion.com/tag/death/video/x7ak89_aircr...-land_sport?from=rss (http://www.dailymotion.com/tag/death/video/x7ak89_aircraft-looses-wing-and-still-land_sport?from=rss)

12-22-2008, 12:46 PM
Originally posted by Heavy_Weather:
http://www.dailymotion.com/tag/death/video/x7ak89_aircr...-land_sport?from=rss (http://www.dailymotion.com/tag/death/video/x7ak89_aircraft-looses-wing-and-still-land_sport?from=rss)

please stop passing on this link of the digitaly altered plane landing with one wing. we all know it's fake and was part of an Ad campaign.

12-22-2008, 03:28 PM
Originally posted by Urufu_Shinjiro:
No offense to anyone and with all due respect to the deceased but is it just me or is a 20yr old flight instructor a bad idea?

In Australia 20 year old is about normal for a flight instructor.

In Australia your typical career if you want to fly heavies is 250 hours training to gain your commercial licence followed by 750 more hours working in the industry more often than not as an instructor and then at 1000 hours pick up work at a small regional flying right seat in something like a Dash 8 or SAAB and after a few thousand more hours move to an international carrier.

However if anything the CFI are the opposite extreme. i was talking to the CFI at local school about converting my GA hours across to a recreational license and he happened to mention he had just turned 81. The CFi at my original school is in his mid 70's with tens of thousands of hours up.

Basically in Australia you typically have a 60-70 year old CFI and a couple of 19 to 20 year old instructors. High hour pilots rarely work as instructors until they are too old for the airlines when they become a CFI somewhere.

12-22-2008, 03:53 PM
Wow, seems like a 20yr old wouldn't have the kind of experience one should have to teach others to fly safely, but it that's how it works so be it, lol.

12-22-2008, 04:01 PM
20 was probably the average age for WWII flight crew http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

12-22-2008, 04:19 PM
Yup, if you were 25 you were an officer, and the enlisted men called you an "old man".

12-23-2008, 01:42 AM
Great,yet tragic story.Thx for sharing.

Great work on Mr. Andrews part,too bad it ended so badly for those in the Cessna;and too bad it didn't say what Mr. Andrews was flying.