“Miracle” – Pilot talks about jet accident

“Jet did not ascend,” pilot explains

A well-known pilot from Middelburg Aero Club, Richardt Lovett, opened up about Saturday’s accident with his Aero L-39 Albatros Jet, that burst through a concrete wall at the airfield.

The accident happened just after 09:00, as he remembers phoning his wife at 09:16 to tell her about the incident.

“I will tell you what I know happened,” he started the interview yesterday.

“I did all my checks, as I always do, and everything was perfect.” He then did the engine test and started the cycle run on the runway.

“When I got to the speed where the aircraft had to lift off the ground, it just didn’t ascend, but kept running straight on the runway.”

He said he tried all the emergency procedures that he was taught to do, and none of them worked.

Richardt then focused on keeping the aircraft straight, fearing it would roll over.

Mr Richardt Lovett.

“I kept it as straight as I could, then it slammed into the concrete wall, went through the wall, and stopped.

He remembered that he got out of the aircraft and ran away from it, because he was scared of a fire.

He immediately phoned his wife and after he called her, he got back into the airplane, to try to shut down the engine, which was still running.

“The engine wouldn’t shut down, and I had to use emergency procedures to shut it down.”

He explained that when the jet went through the wall, the concrete ended up in the aircraft.

“Some of that concrete actually jammed the throttle of the airplane, so I couldn’t close the engine, it just kept on running.”

After he found a way to stop the engine, he climbed out of the jet and walked a few paces away.

At this stage he felt that he was going to lose consciousness because he had serious facial injuries due to the concrete, which hit him in the face when the jet went through the wall.

Luckily one of the club members, who was also at the airfield, saw that Richardt’s jet was going to take off, and realised something was wrong when he did not see the jet in the air.

He immediately drove to the direction where the accident happened.

“It is a miracle. The aircraft was so far away in the field. If it did fall over, they wouldn’t have found me easily.”

The club member picked him up and took him to the Life Midmed Hospital.

“At Midmed, they stitched up some of the cuts and immediately arranged for me to go to Cosmos Hospital in eMalahleni by ambulance.”

On Sunday evening, he had a four and a half hour surgery on his face.

“They had to do reconstruction work on my chin and my jaw. I am extremely grateful. My injuries are cosmetic in nature and luckily they will pass. Nothing else is broken, except for a broken chin and jaw. My jaw is broken in four places.”

He mentioned again that all the injuries he sustained were caused by the concrete wall, and not the aircraft.

He was discharged from hospital on Tuesday.

Richardt said he does not know what went wrong.

“There will obviously be an official investigation now. We will get to the bottom of it and will eventually understand exactly what happened, but for now we can not speculate on what went wrong.”

According to Richardt, he will definitely fly again, “I am a pilot and I will be flying again. That’s my hobby and I love it. For sure I will be back!”

• Richardt would like to thank everybody for their help on Saturday, “I am extremely grateful for everybody who stood up for me, helped to recover the aircraft and supported my wife and family. Thank you for the love that you showed to me and my family.”

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