Pilot and cameraman feared dead after ex-military plane crash in Melbourne
Family and friends are mourning a respected pilot and skilled cameraman lost in a fighter plane crash off Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
Police have vowed to continue searching until they recover the aircraft, which came down following a mid-air collision above Port Phillip Bay, about 12 kilometres west of Mount Martha, about 1.40pm yesterday.
Pilot Stephen Gale is believed to have been behind the controls of one of the two light Viper S-211 Marchetti planes that collided.
It’s understood television cameraman James Rose was his passenger.
Gale reportedly spent hundred of hours in the cockpit and it’s believed he was filming for a documentary at the time of the crash.
The experienced RAAF engineer turned pilot had been teaching high-profile figures to become pilots through his company Jetworks Aviation.
At 30 years old, James Rose, a drone pilot and television cameraman, was shooting promotional video from the aircraft.
He shared pictures of the two jets on social media before leaving the ground.
Victoria Police Inspector Terry Rowlands told media today that the search for the missing men would continue until the aircraft was retrieved.
The search area is at least five kilometres in size.
“It’s unbelievably tragic for the families and all involved,” Rowlands said.
“At this point, it’s solely a recovery mission.
“I believe the search being undertaken now is to find any debris that may be floating, and also sonar equipment is being used to try and locate anything that might be on the seafloor.”
The two planes that collided were flying in formation before the crash, with flight tracking data logging maneuvers being carried out up to 500 kilometres per hour.
The second plane managed the land safely at Essendon Airport following the incident.
That plane, which showed signs of damage, is blocked off with police tape in its hangar.
It was carrying a veteran cameraman, with vision from the flight to form part of the investigation.
The pilot of the second plane sent a mayday call after the crash, telling authorities he had seen a “splash mark” in the water where the Viper went down.
“Viper 1 … mayday, mayday, mayday,” the pilot said.
A voice on the other end of the call responded: “Viper 1, roger your mayday. You anticipate Viper 1 in the water?”
“I am anticipating Viper 2 in the water … we can see a splash mark,” the pilot said.
Search crews yesterday recovered some wreckage from the light aircraft, including orange debris, a beacon floating device, and a plane tyre.
Police believe both aircraft would have been visible from Mount Martha between 1pm and 2pm.
Flight radar vision and video showed the two former military planes flying in formation and performing aerobatic manoeuvres shortly before the crash.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is expected to investigate, along with police.
Police are keen to speak to anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone with vision of the planes.