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Two dead in gyrocopter crash

Wreckage of a missing gyrocopter is found by SES crews in the Kinglake National Park, Victoria on Sunday. Nine News.

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The pilot of the gyrocopter that crashed in Kinglake National Park yesterday is one of the two men who died in the accident on Saturday night. 

Reg Thaggard, 51, the founder of Yarra Valley Microlights and Yarra Valley Flightsports, was well regarded as an experienced and expert pilot of microlight aircraft. 

Police are still trying to contact the family of the passenger, a foreign tourist. 

Reg Thaggard, gyocopter pilot, was killed when his plane crashed in the Kinglake National Park.

Reg Thaggard, gyocopter pilot, was killed when his plane crashed in the Kinglake National Park. Photo: Facebook

General Manager of the Yarra Valley Conference Centre, Louise Ward, said Mr Thaggard was a ‘‘very accomplished pilot’’ and that ‘‘it was a very unusual thing to have happened’’.

‘‘I mean, I would send my kids flying with him.’’

Ms Ward said Mr Thaggard would often rent space at the centre, and take off from there. 

A Facebook post showed a beaming Mr Thaggard, holding up his pilot licence with an ‘‘unrestricted gyrocopter instructor rating’’.   

Former microlight club member, Kel Glare, who knew Mr Thaggard for close to six years, said the pilot was a ‘‘fine man and instructor’’.

‘‘He first instructed in microlight flights, and then moved into gyrocopters, which he concentrated on more in the last couple of year,’’ Mr Glare said.

‘‘He was a good instructor and a careful pilot, and it’s just an absolute tragedy. His family will be devastated.’’ 

President of the Southern Microlight Club, Chris Bullen, said he could not imagine there was ‘‘any pilot error at all’’ in the crash, due to Mr Thaggard’s expertise as a pilot.

‘‘It was obliviously something mechanical, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the investigators have to say,’’ Mr Bullen told The Age.

Mr Thaggard, who had been flying microlights for more than 15 years, was a club member for about six years.

‘‘Apart from being an excellent club member and a bit of a mentor to people in the club as far as flying was concerned, he was just an excellent club member and all around nice guy who would help anybody, and bend over backwards to help,’’ Mr Bullen said. 

A microlight, which resembles a powered hand-glider, carries a couple of people in the container underneath and has a ‘‘motor which pushes you along’’, Mr Bullen said.

‘‘A gyrocopter, on the other hand, has blades like a helicopter, but they’re not powered,’’ he said.

‘‘What makes them spin is the motor behind you that’s pushing you along, and that’s what makes them spin and gives you a lift.’’

This year alone, there have been at least two crashes involving gyrocopters in Australia.

In September, a gyrocopter was hit by a wallaby during take off in Townsville, Queensland, and was thrown into a fence as a result.

The wallaby was killed, the aircraft sustained significant damage, but the pilot escaped unharmed.

In another Queensland incident, a 30-year-old pilot was left fighting for his life after his gyrocopter clipped power lines and slammed into a field in the state’s east. 

In Victoria, a 71-year-old man pulled himself out of his rapidly sinking gyrocopter after the aircraft crashed and sank into a muddy beach on Phillip Island in June, 2012.

In another Victorian horror crash in January 2012, two people  were killed while the aircraft was attempting to land.