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Boy, 9, prevents plane crash


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Boy, 9, prevents plane crash

By Myrtle Ryan

A nine-year-old boy, flying a kite at Grahamstown airport, possibly saved the lives of five Durban people.

When the Lee and Bricknell family were preparing to fly home from Grahamstown aboard their Beechcraft turbo-prop King Air last Sunday they met Brent Bowker and his father Chris, otherwise the airport was deserted.

Pilot Christopher Lee, his wife Noelle, his mother Joan, 85, his father-in-law Edryn Bricknell, 86, and wife Joan, buckled up ready to take off.

Lee was startled to receive a radio message

"Brent is interested in planes," said Bowker. "He saw the pilot making his take-off preparations and spoke to him at great length."

Earlier, another plane, piloted by Bowker's friend Etienne le Roux, landed. The two men were about to leave the airfield but Brent insisted on watching the Beechcraft take off. As he watched, he saw something fall off behind the plane and bounce onto the runway.

Brent alerted his father and they found it was a wheel.

"Etienne's landing gear partially collapsed a year ago, so he knew the danger the occupants of the Beechcraft were in. He also knew whom to contact to alert Lee," said Bowker.

Lee was startled to receive a radio message informing him he had lost a wheel and the 90-minute flight to Durban became a harrowing one.

'We would all probably have been killed'

When they reached Durban, Lee flew the Beechcraft three times round Durban International Airport - which closed for an hour and a half in anticipation of a crash-landing - so someone on the ground could see whether there was a rim left on which to land. However, all that remained was the wheelshaft.

Staff parked a small red van in front of where Lee had to bring the plane down on its belly. He made an impeccable landing and nobody suffered even a scratch or bruise.

If he had not known he had lost a wheel, Lee would have attempted a normal landing at Virginia Airport only to have the wheel shaft plough into the ground, sending the plane cartwheeling.

"We would all probably have been killed," said Noelle Lee.

* This article was originally published on page 2 of The Cape Argus on January 30, 2005

Sunday Argus

Published on the Web by IOL on 2005-01-30 11:15:00

© Independent Online 2004. All rights reserved.

iol.com

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