Aviator lost in outback crash
LOCAL aviation identity Rob Behrend, 51, has tragically been killed in a plane crash while conducting a training session in central Queensland.
Mr Behrend – who was chief instructor and owner of Warwick Flying School – flew to Emerald on Wednesday morning and spent the day teaching another pilot how to fly an aircraft the man was planning to buy.
The men are believed to have spent the day completing training sessions before setting off for their final trip at around 3pm.
The alarm was raised when the men did not return by last light on Wednesday and Rockhampton police yesterday confirmed the bodies of the two men had been located at around 2pm.
Mr Behrend – who is believed to have been the passenger at the time of the accident – leaves behind his wife Lynne and the couple’s three daughters.
Friend, colleague and former student Kelvin Hutchinson yesterday spoke of the “absolute shock” at Mr Behrend’s death.
“He has trained hundreds and hundreds of pilots and we’re all good, safe pilots because of him,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“That is what everybody is reeling with – there couldn’t have been a safer pilot.”
Southern Downs mayor Ron Bellingham yesterday said he had been following the news of the missing pilots, with no idea a local person was involved.
He said to hear the news at lunch time yesterday one of the men involved was Mr Behrend was truly shocking.
“I am particularly sad it comes at a point where I believe he was getting out of the business,” Cr Bellingham said. “I am really concerned for Rob’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.”
Mr Bellingham said Mr Behrend had contributed substantially to aviation in the district.
The death comes just two months after Allora pilot Peter Frith was killed in an accident while flying over the Snowy Mountains.
Mr Behrend was also a good friend to the Daily News team and would always jump at the chance to take one of our reporters for a bird’s eye view
Former chief of staff Casandra Garvey yesterday expressed her sadness at Mr Behrend’s passing and recalls her most recent high-flying adventure with the renowned pilot over Cunningham’s Gap.
“As we inched closer to the Gap he said as calmly as anything ‘Ooh I don’t know if we should keep going, see those pockets of air coming over the hills? You hit one of them and it’ll turn the plane upside down. Once we start to go through there’s no turning back – you in or out’?” she said.
“He was quick to clarify there was no way he would consider flying in rough conditions – that was one of his greatest attributes, he was always an incredibly safe pilot and would never put himself or his passenger at risk.”