Wreckage of plane found in bay after collision

Wreckage found in Port Phillip Bay plane crash search

Searchers have made a breakthrough in their hunt for the wreckage of an ex-military fighter jet that crashed into Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay.

Crews have been scouring Port Phillip Bay for any sign of TV camera operator James Rose, 30, and pilot Stephen Gale, 56, after their Jetworks Aviation flight went down about 1.45pm on Sunday.

On Tuesday morning, Victoria Police confirmed crews found a large part of the body of the plane about 12 kilometres offshore from Mornington.

Police will search the fuselage after it is removed from the water.

Rose and Gale were the only ones on board the plane when it crashed. Neither is believed to have survived.

Investigators were still working to determine the exact circumstances of the midair crash and believed the aircraft would have been visible from Mount Martha between 1pm and 2pm on Sunday.

Officers urged anyone who saw the planes to come forward.

The plane was one of two Viper S-211 Marchetti aircraft conducting a formation flight for a Jetworks Aviation promotional video about 12 kilometres west of Mount Martha.

They collided midair and one crashed into the water. The second landed safely at Essendon Airport with two people – including off-duty Qantas captain Joanne Mein – on board.

It is understood Mein, a former RAAF pilot, was in the rear seat of the second aircraft and wasn’t flying the jet.

A Qantas spokeswoman said the company was deeply upset to hear about the incident at Port Phillip Bay.

“The news has shocked the Qantas and Jetstar pilot communities and everyone’s thoughts are with these families,” the spokeswoman said.

“We’ve reached out to those involved and are providing whatever support we can.”

With hours passing and no sign of the aircraft wreckage, the rescue mission shifted on Monday to a recovery mission with Rose and Gale presumed dead.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau was planning to interview the surviving pilot of the second plane on Monday afternoon.

ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said the investigation into the tragedy would take months.

“We will go into great detail around maintenance records, pilot qualifications and past ‘sorties’ that have been conducted,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW on Tuesday.

“It’s not only detailing what’s occurred but it’s all the things that potentially failed … whether it’s mechanical or potentially human.”

Jetworks Aviation, based at Essendon Fields, hosts flight training and joy rides, with one package offering a 45-minute two-jet fighter formation flight.

The business was created for the TV documentary Any Fool Can Fly, which is yet to air, according to the show’s website.

The series was to show a “group of high achievers” attempting to master flying, aerobatics and formation. Australian comedian Tommy Little was among the “student pilots” featured.

Rose, a well-known and experienced drone operator, worked on high-profile TV shows for the Nine and Seven Networks and production company EndemolShine, including on cooking show MasterChef.

– with AAP

Topics: victoria
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