Engine key to crash investigation

Geoffrey Thomas Aviation Editor
Dangerous business: An investigator at the crash site. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian

Investigators will wear protective suits when looking into what caused the crash of the homebuilt Glasair III plane that left two men badly burnt.

Pilots Tony White and Ralph Lerch were in a critical but stable condition at Royal Perth Hospital last night after their plane burst into flames while attempting an emergency landing after the engine failed on Monday.

The lead investigator from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said yesterday that the plane was made of carbon fibre, which was hazardous when burnt.

Three investigators from Canberra, specialising in aircraft engineering, operations and technical analysis, will look into the crash.

The ATSB confirmed the pilot, believed to be Mr White, attempted a forced landing on Lakelands Reserve oval shortly after taking off from Jandakot airport about 2.30pm.

The pilot avoided powerlines but clipped a goalpost before the plane skidded across the oval and burst into flames.

The investigating team will gather information from a variety of sources, including the plane wreckage, the accident site, witnesses, any available video footage and maintenance records.

They are expected to be onsite for two days.

The plane involved carried the registration VH-USW and was built by Mr Lerch and registered in 2008.

It is owned by Mr White. The Glasair III is a two-seat dual control plane.

Mr White, a keen aviator, owns two other homebuilt aircraft.

According to aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, homebuilt aircraft have a similar safety record to other types in general aviation.

Experience in aircraft engineering or the assistance of a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer is essential and building the aircraft can take several years.

After construction is completed and passes a regulatory inspection, the aircraft must go through a series of flight tests.

Data is collected and reviewed before approval is given for registration.