Crop-duster, 75, Dies In Lake Crash

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday December 8, 2007

Arjun Ramachandran and Dylan Welch

A PILOT whose age - 75 - and "squillion years" in the sky made him a crop-dusting legend died when his plane crashed into a lake near Muswellbrook yesterday morning.

Yesterday police divers were searching the lake for the body of Col Pay, of Scone.

The Scone Aero Club president, Neville Partridge, said Mr Pay - whose company operates a fire-bombing service - was "an absolute icon in the crop-dusting industry".

"He's got a squillion hours up - he's been doing it for so long," Mr Partridge said.

"We're all pretty shattered."

The yellow plane was scooping water from Lake Liddell near the New England Highway about 9.30am when it crashed into the lake, according to Harley McKillop, of Pay's Air Service.

"What can I tell you? We've crashed into Lake Liddell ... the pilot's in the wreckage and they haven't retrieved the pilot or the wreckage," he said.

"This is a huge loss for us - it's our livelihood." Mr McKillop is also a pilot.

Despite early reports that there had been up to three people in the plane, Mr McKillop said only the pilot had been on board.

The plane, an Airtractor AT-802, could fit only one person, he said.

Mr Pay had been testing new equipment when he crashed, Mr McKillop said. It was not yet clear whether the equipment being tested had contributed to the crash.

He said staff from the company had been at the lake when the plane crashed, and had called emergency services.

Mr McKillop said Mr Pay was one of the country's best-known collectors of warbirds, or vintage military aircraft. He had once owned the only flying Spitfire in Australia, as well as a Mustang, Tiger Moth and a Kittyhawk.

Mr Pay was well known for flying the warbirds at air shows, including the Scone air show.

A Westpac rescue helicopter flew to the lake from Newcastle, joining police and ambulance crews.

© 2007 Sydney Morning Herald

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