Well-Known Aussie Pilot Dies In Air Tanker Test

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Col Pay, regarded as one of Australia’s "legendary" pilots in news reports from there, died last week in a crash while testing a new type of air tanker. Pay was test-flying an Air Tractor 802 air tanker, made in Olney, Texas, when it flipped on a lake. Pay, 75, was evaluating the aircraft, which was reportedly equipped with a system that allows wheel-equipped aircraft to skim the surface of a lake and scoop up water for fighting fires. This type of aircraft is used in the U.S., Canada and Europe for firefighting but the scooping versions are equipped with amphibious floats and pick up water while in a high-speed taxi. Pay’s accident happened while he was scooping water from Lake Liddell in the Hunter Valley. Pay’s company, Pay’s Air Services, has contracts to provide firefighting services in the area and was evaluating the aircraft. The pilot of a second test aircraft, Harley McIllop, witnessed the accident. Australian authorities are investigating and the aviation industry is mourning Pay's loss. He’d been flying for more than 50 years and was a founding member of the Scone Aero Club. "We just can't believe it," Club President Neville Partridge told reporters. "He was such a character, but he could be a cranky bugger, too. He was so experienced, really tough."