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‘We’re very optimistic’ family arrives by the bedside of critically injured Qantas pilots

The families of the Australians, including two Qantas pilots, injured in a fatal plane crash in South Africa, have arrived by their bedside. 

A vintage Convair-340 plane came down and crashed into a dairy farm during a flight in Pretoria on Tuesday, killing a South African crewman and injuring Qantas pilots Ross Kelly and Douglas Haywood, as well at 18 others.

A factory worker was seriously injured in the crash and later died.

Ross Kelly, who recently retired, and his wife Lyndal, have been injured in the crash. Picture: Facebook
Pilot Douglas Haywood has also been injured. Picture: Facebook
Pilot Douglas Haywood has also been injured. Picture: Facebook

Ross's brother is among family who have tonight arrived at the hospital, and has told 9NEWS, the 64-year-old is in a critical condition, but has been deemed stable. 

“Doctors have told us to take it a day at a time”, said Ean Kelly, “we're very optimistic and hoping for the best”. 

Ross's wife Lyndal was also on board, and is in stable condition. She is still in an induced coma, but Ean says doctors are confident she'll make a full recovery. 

The short flight from Wonderboom Airport to Pilanesberg is believed to have been a weight test for the aircraft before it flew to its new home. Picture: Supplied
The short flight from Wonderboom Airport to Pilanesberg is believed to have been a weight test for the aircraft before it flew to its new home. Picture: Supplied
The plane crashed into a dairy farm. Picture: AAP
The plane crashed into a dairy farm. Picture: AAP

The pairs' two children are also among the family who have arrived tonight in South Africa. 

“I'd like to pay tribute to all the airlines for getting us here; Virgin Australia, SAA, Qantas, they've all been absolutely marvellous in making this so much easier for us”, Mr Kelly told 9NEWS. 

Ross was making the short flight from Wonderboom Airport to Pilanesberg after it had been restored, before it was due to be flown to its new home – an aerospace musuem in the Netherlands.

People rushing to the aid of those on board. Picture: Supplied
People rushing to the aid of those on board. Picture: Supplied

The ABC reports that the flight was on a joyride, as a thank you to the team who had done the work.

The Sydney pilots, one of whom had recently retired, were taken to Johannesburg Hospital after the crash. 

A statement has been released by Qantas this morning.

“We were deeply upset to learn that two Qantas pilots, one current and one retired, were on board the vintage aircraft involved in an accident in South Africa on Tuesday,” the statement read.

“This news has shocked the Qantas pilot community and everyone’s thoughts are with the families.

“We’ve reached out and are providing whatever support we can.”

Two people died and 20 others were injured. Picture: AP
Two people died and 20 others were injured. Picture: AP

Both men have flown for Qantas for more than 30 years, including as A380 captains, with a combined 37,000 hours of flying experience.

A friend of Mr Kelly, who had recently retired, told 9NEWS he had been working on the project to rebuild the vintage aircraft for months.

“Ross is among the most experienced pilots and was well versed in this sort of aircraft operations,” Andy Hardy said.

“He has ferried vintage aircraft from the US and Europe back to Australia several time.

“Reality is, there are risks with older aircraft that are restored and looks as if the engine has let him down at a critical moment.”

The Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association Australia posted a message about the crash on its Facebook page.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Australian pilot, co-pilot and passenger who were on-board a Convair C-131D which has crashed today in South Africa,” the statement read.

“The passenger and co-pilot are said to be in a stable condition, with the pilot critically injured.

“The Convair was being prepared for a delivery flight to the Dutch city of Leystad, where it was to go on display at the Aviodrome museum.”

“We were deeply upset to learn that two Qantas pilots, one current and one retired, were on board the vintage aircraft involved in an accident in South Africa on Tuesday,” a Qantas spokesman told The Australian. 

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018




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