A pilot and his passenger had a lucky escape when their plane came back to earth in a Plettenberg Bay suburb on Sunday.
The RV sport plane’s engine quit while it was flying over the holiday town, forcing the pilot to do a “forced lob”, aviation slang for a forced landing.
SAPS spokesperson Sgt Chries Spies confirmed the incident, saying local police members were sent to Bowtie Drive “at about 11:52″ to find the plane had landed on a public road.
No injuries were reported, Spies said.
Photos taken at the scene and circulating on aviation forum Avcom show substantial damage to the plane, however.
The right wing suffered a deep gash, most likely from hitting and uprooting a small tree while landing.
The propeller and engine cowling were also badly damaged when the plane’s nose hit an electric gate and knocked it off its rails.
Posters on Avcom, many of whom are pilots, remarked how fortunate the pilot and passenger were to “walk away” from the scene.
Avcom user “30foursouth” said the accident aircraft had flown “fairly low” over the beach at Nature’s Valley in the morning.
On the return leg, the aircraft performed a mild aerobatic manoeuvre called a wing-over above the beach before climbing away.
“The engine sounded like it was running a bit rough when it started climbing and I was surprised that it then proceeded to route inland.”
Spies said the incident had been referred to the SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) for investigation.
Avcom members speculated whether the aircraft had run out of fuel, with some suggesting that fuel might have been stolen during the night as the plane had not been locked up in a hangar.
It is standard for pilots to carry out preflight checks, including visually inspecting the amount of fuel in the plane’s tanks, before taking off.
At least one commentator praised the pilot for successfully landing the plane in a tight spot, saying “Great execution by pilot — well done to you, sir”.
The all-aluminium range of RV aircraft are supplied as homebuild kits from US light plane maker Vans. Some 10,600 RV kits had been completed and flown, making the type one of the most popular home-built aircraft in history.