An Illawarra flight instructor has been praised for taking control of a light plane and landing it in a paddock after its engine failed over Haywards Bay this week.
Shane Aul, a qualified NSW Air Flight Training instructor, was assessing a pilot when a mechanical fault cut the Cessna 172's engine and a mayday call was issued about 11.20am on Tuesday.
Mr Aul, aged in his mid 20s, landed the plane on a strip of grass - between the Macquarie Rivulet and the water of Haywards Bay - without incident moments later.
Shane did a great job in what he did ... if there's a place to go it's not easy, but it's also what we train to do. He's not a hero, he's just doing his job.
The instructor and student, a private pilot licence holder, were the only two occupants and walked away uninjured.
NSW Air Flight Training chief pilot and head of operations Adam Brady told the Mercury the student was already licenced to fly the aircraft but one of the flight school's instructors had been hired to assess him.
Mr Brady said the owner of the Cessna, which was not part of the school's fleet, wanted additional checks on the pilot before the plane was hired out. Those checks were being done when the incident unfolded.
Mr Brady said the plane had a "complete loss of power due to a mechanical issue" and praised Mr Aul's actions.
"He actually took control of the aircraft at that point and landed it; that's generally a given practice, the senior pilot would fly the aircraft in the event of an emergency," he said. "The other pilot holding a private licence, he's trained to also do that ... but it's just about levels of experience.
"He [Mr Aul] did a tremendous job. I said 'it's a credit to your pilot skills' and congratulated him ... because he did make the right call. You don't have a lot of time, but all that training kicks in and it worked for him."
Mr Brady said the school's pilots practiced forced landings regularly and the aircraft's "glide ratio" meant it could still fly "quite well" without power.
"We constantly rehearse this over and over again when the aircraft's flying; anyone can fly, it's just when something serious happens that your skills as a pilot are tested," he said.
"Shane did a great job in what he did. [He] reacted to the situation, it's not an ideal one ... if there's a place to go it's not easy, but it's also what we train to do. He's not a hero, he's just doing his job."
Mr Brady was able to fly the plane from the paddock about 4pm on Tuesday, after it was given the all-clear.
"Two licensed engineers looked at it and said it was OK to fly," he said.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is investigating the incident, including what caused the plane's engine to fail. On Wednesday, a CASA spokesman said it was too early to provide an investigation update, given it would likely take "a few days" to receive and assess the required information.