It was a sad day for South African aerobatics, following the death of 33-year-old Durban pilot Michel Leusch when his aerobatics aircraft crashed during a flight show in north-west China’s Gansu Province.
The former Intermediate Aerobatic Champion of 2014, who was flying the XtremeAir Sbach 342 aircraft alongside three other South Africans, plunged to the ground after he failed to pull out of a dive.
He was competing in the first Silk Road International General Aviation Convention in China when the aircraft crashed in the Gobi desert, about 100m from the runway.
There are to be investigations to ascertain the cause of the crash.
In May the Glen Ashley resident flew a model flying aircraft at the Sky Grand Prix of Aerobatics and kept visitors on the edge of their seats.
In memory of Leusch, the Silver Falcons flew a missing man formation at the Bethlehem Air Show on Saturday. The flyover, in which the middle plane falls out of formation, was a sign of respect for the late Leusch.
Sky Grand Prix of Aerobics chief executive Roger Deare said there would be a void in the aerobatics community.
“I have known Michel since 2010 and he showed such remarkable talent. He was an aerobatic champion with a great future. It is an absolute tragedy that we lost him,” he said.
Local aviation expert Brian Spurr said Leusch had been in China for a few weeks with a group of pilots, preparing for the event.
“Not only was he a world champion, he was an expert radio control pilot. Everyone in aviation in the country knows the guy. No one can believe that this happened and we are absolutely shocked,” said Spurr.