A SCHOOLGIRL who posed proudly with her parents after her first solo fight has been killed in a crash involving the same aircraft days later.
Anika de Beer died in the blazing wreckage on the eve of her 17th birthday after she got behind the flight controls of the Piper Cherokee 28A-180 to do solo practice landings and circuits at her local airfield.
Her delighted mum Rika and dad Andries had presented their 16-year-old daughter with the traditional bottle of bubbly for her first lone flight even though she was still too young to drink.
But just days later the talented pilot is believed to have lost control and stalled as she prepared to land at Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria, South Africa, and crashed at high speed away from the runway.
Her distraught parents have now had to her cancel her birthday bash planed for Saturday and instead invited her grief-stricken friends to attend her funeral.
Another pilot who had just landed saw the plume of smoke rising up from the flames of the crashed aircraft and radioed it into the control tower after radio contact with Anika ended.
The airfield’s fire brigade were quickly at the scene along with ambulances but could do nothing for the teenage pilot whose charred body was found inside the burnt out Piper Cherokee.
A senior local pilot said: “I haven no wish to prejudge the accident report but the wreckage shows that it was a high speed impact and I would suspect the plane stalled while making an approach turn.
“Anika would never have been allowed to fly solo by her instructor if he was not 100% confident she was ready and when she did her first solo flight a few days before she didn’t put a foot wrong.
“Unless there was a structural or engine failure we may never know what happened up there but her loss has hit everyone in our community at Wonderboom Airfrield extremely hard.”
Anika had done just over 24 hours training and was due to take her Private Pilot’s Licence after she turned 17 tomorrow and had set her heart on flying passenger jets for South African Airways.
DevastatedTearful mum Rika said: “Anika was the joy in our lives and our red-haired little pilot. Her ambition was to travel and see the whole world as a commercial pilot flying a Boeing.
“There is a world map in her bedroom on the wall and she said that when that day came she would soon know every corner of the earth. Flying was her passion and her biggest dream”.
Anika’s distraught parents said that her funeral would be held on Saturday instead of her 17th birthday party adding: “Our hearts are shattered – she was our everything. We are lost”.
She was a member of the Professional Flight Centre at Wonderboom Airport and centre advisor Karel Ehmke confirmed Anika had gone up to do solo circuits and landing flight training.
Karel said:”She was a brilliant pilot and died doing what she loved most – being a pilot”.
Under South African Air Law a student pilot can learn to fly at 15 and fly solo at 16 but cannot apply to take their Private Pilot’s Licence until they are 17 which Anika had planned to do.
She had just 24 hours of flight training under her belt and was flying on her second solo flight.
Owner of the flight centre Andre le Roux said he could comment further as an investigation is underway into the death of the young pilot but added: “We are all severely traumatised by it”.
The Tswane Emergency Medical Services declared the schoolgirl dead at the scene and the Accident and Incident Investigation Division have been called in to prepare a report into the tragedy.
The flying club which Anika was a member of said on its Facebook site: “You will always be part of our family and we will never forget your smile which enlightened the room whenever you walked in.
“May you spread your wings and fly high with the angels in heaven” it said.
(Source: The Mirror)