|VH-KIR at the Whitsunday Airport in happier times (File photo)|
The Whitsunday-based Aeromot AMT-200 Motorised Glider VH-KIR was flying to Burketown via Georgetown so the pilot could surf the Morning Glory, a massive roll cloud that can propel gliders to incredible speeds.
However, travelling at 4000ft over Peter Faust Dam, smoke began to fill the cockpit, making it difficult for the pilot to breathe. After opening the side window was unsuccessful, the pilot attempted to jettison the canopy. The canopy released only partway before jamming, at which point flames leapt up through the front right hand side of the plane and over the top of the stainless steel firewall.
The pilot applied his airbrakes fully to get down as quickly as he could due to the intense heat. Not wearing a parachute, the pilot decided to stay with the plane and aimed for an area in front of a speedboat he had seen traversing the Dam, in case he was knocked unconscious by the force of the impact and needed rescuing. The plane plummeted into the Dam from a height of around 40ft.
Two boats quickly came to the pilots aid and towed him back to shore before extinguishing the fire with the wash from their propellers. The aircraft was towed to shore and lifted out of the dam on Sunday afternoon.
The pilot was taken to Proserpine Hospital for smoke inhalation and released on Monday afternoon.