Police are investigating a mid-air incident involving an 82-year-old Lex Nixon, himself a former pilot, who attempted to take control of a light aircraft he’d chartered to take him to Cowra in central-western NSW.
The 23-year-old pilot, James Chandler, was forced to fight off and restrain Nixon, a Christian missionary, and make an emergency landing in Oberon, west of the Blue Mountains, yesterday afternoon. The pilot told air safety investigators that Nixon attempted to switch off fuel to the plane’s twin engines.
The ABC reports that the pilot was praised for making an emergency landing, while putting out an emergency call and grappling with his passenger, who had chartered the flight from Bankstown.
The incident occurred just 16 minutes into the flight, with the pilot radioing a distress message of “Pan, pan, pan, pan, pan… my passenger is trying to take over”.
Nixon is a pilot with half a century of experience flying. He founded Outback Patrol, a Christian mission that flies priests to outback towns, with his wife Martha in 1961. Reports says he has no recollection of the incident on the plane.
Chandler’s radio call captures some of the drama as he fights to keep the plane aloft, saying “hoah, whoah. My passenger’s taking… the engines.”
No-one was injured in the landing, but the plane suffered minor damage. Nixon was taken to Westmead Hospital with head and facial injuries and police are hoping to interview him on Wednesday.
Chandler was taken to Oberon Hospital and treated for shock.
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