A student pilot and his instructor have walked away unscathed after their light plane was forced to make an emergency landing in a paddock at Haywards Bay on Tuesday morning.
Emergency services converged on a long strip of grass - between the Macquarie Rivulet and the water of Haywards Bay - after the pilot flying the Cessna 172 issued a mayday call about 11.20am.
The plane's engine had failed, but the pilot managed to land without incident.
The student and instructor, from the Illawarra Regional Airport-based NSW Air Flight Training, were the only two people on board.
They got themselves out and walked away uninjured.
The Mercury understands the duo were practicing forced landings at the time of the incident.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) will investigate what caused the plane, which had earlier taken off from the airport at Albion Park Rail, to come down.
A CASA spokesman confirmed the Cessna 172's engine failed and said the pilot "did a forced landing in a paddock". He said CASA was awaiting further information as part of its investigation.
Chief Inspector Craig Ireland, from Lake Illawarra police, praised the pilot for landing the plane away from nearby residential and industrial areas.
"The pilot's done a fairly good job to land it safely in the paddock," Chief Inspector Ireland said.
The pilot and instructor were "relatively calm" when they spoke to police, he said.
Murray Anderson, from Narellan Pools, was working in the backyard of a home on nearby Haywards Bay Drive and said he saw the plane flying "really low" over the top of the house moments before it touched down in the paddock.
"It was going side to side, like as if the aeroplane didn't know whether to turn left or right, and then he just went straight down there [in the paddock]," the 40-year-old told the Mercury.
"He was obviously looking for somewhere to land and then just picked that spot over there. He was pretty close to the house, probably about six metres above it.
"I didn't know if he was trying to say 'hello' or if he was trying to land, or whether he was trying to move to turn around or what."
Mr Anderson said he saw the men get out of the plane.
"They were walking, so they seemed alright," he said.
The plane remained in the paddock on Tuesday afternoon, awaiting salvage.
NSW Air Flight Training was contacted for comment.