The amateur pilot who was killed along with his pregnant wife in a crash on Sunday afternoon may not have held a pilot’s licence, according to reports.
The Courier-Mail has reported that 22-year-old Rhiley Kuhrt, who was en route with 24-year-old wife Maree to a medical appointment when their Piper Cherokee (similar aircraft pictured) went down in a storm west of Proserpine, Queensland, had completed 30 hours of recreational pilot licence (RPL) training at a local aero club but left before completing the course.
The newspaper spoke to the President and CEO of Darling Downs Aero Club, Allan Bougoure, who had confirmed Mr Kuhrt had not obtained his licence before leaving the club, though was unable to comment on whether the “bush pilot” had completed the training at a different club.
“The only people who would know if (Mr Kuhrt) didn’t have a licence are CASA and (Mr Kuhrt) himself,” said Bougoure.
Without a licence, Mr Kuhrt would not have been legally able to fly either solo or with a passenger, and without a navigational endorsement, a recreational pilot cannot fly more than 25 nautical miles from their departure aerodrome. Proserpine is approximately 140 nautical miles from the flight’s origin point, Natal Downs Station, near Charters Towers.
In a statement seen by the Courier-Mail, ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said the agency is looking into “the pilot’s flying experience and qualifications, the weather at the time of the accident, flight planning information, aircraft maintenance records, and any available recorded data”.
“In addition, considerable site access challenges due to the nature of the terrain will inform the extent of ATSB on-site evidence-gathering activities,” he said.
“The ATSB extends its condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in this tragic accident.”
A spokesperson for the Queensland Police told the newspaper that efforts to recover the plane and its deceased passengers would be “protracted”, with weather and terrain both hampering the operation.
“Queensland Police Service and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will investigate the incident, and police will prepare a report for the coroner in relation to the matter,” she said.
“To respect the privacy of the deceased and their bereaved families, no further updates on the retrieval will be provided.”
Image cropped from Gdańsk – Piper PA-28 (SP-MIC) at the Lech Wałęsa Airport by Andrzej Otrębski via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).