MIRACLE: Pilot behind incredible landing shares his story
"It was absolutely horrifying, there is no other word to describe it - it was your worst nightmare."
That's how Charters Towers radiographer Azhar Caddy described losing power to the engine of his Zodiac light-aircraft just 3000 feet above the top of mountain ranges north of Townsville this morning.
The married, father-of-four told the Townsville Bulletin that he began to lose altitude at a rate of 200ft per minute over what he described as "unsurvivable" terrain.
"So I issued what's called a PAN-PAN call (to emergency services in Brisbane) and explained my problem and intentions and they were very very helpful, very on the ball, very calm, very good."
Dr Caddy said even after clearing the cloud-encased Paluma Ranges he did not believe he would make the Ingham Aerodrome, his ultimate destination.
"I was looking to find a paddock, there are plenty of them, but whether you dig your wheels in is another thing," he said.
"It was a survivable option, but up in the ranges, when it happened, that was unsurvivable, completely unsurvivable."
Dr Caddy, originally from Bristol, England, said he had dropped from a total altitude of 7,500ft directly above the Paluma Dam to just 3000ft when the engine miraculously powered back to life.
"I was still very cautious, I was looking for (alternative) landing spots all the way here."
He said his training at Cleveland Bay Aviation in Townsville kicked in and he was able to maintain a clear head.
"I was talking to a lot of people, changing frequencies and writing stuff down all at the same time as pilots do … you've got no time to panic."
Dr Caddy, who was treated for shock after landing, says he was flying his two-seat Zodiac aircraft from Charters Towers to Ingham to visit a colleague at Ingham Hospital.
"The radiographer here, she's got a nice new department that I was supposed to have as well at Charters Towers, I was going to visit her and see her nice shiny room," he joked.
He said he had a recent total engine rebuild, logging 30 subsequent flawless hours of flight time.
"The engine just started running really rough, it's just been serviced, I had a total engine rebuild, 30 hours ago, so everything was absolutely tip-top with the engine, I've flown it 30 hours since then and it was flawless," he said.
"But then it was something like fuel problems, like 'chug chug chug chug'."
Dr Caddy, 51, said he had been a pilot since 2008 and had not processed whether or not the incident had put him off flying, but it was a passion that was in his blood.
"Unfortunately, nothing is perfect but we have to ensure that we are doing the best we can in the best circumstances at all times, but we are trained as pilots to handle such events as this and thankfully with the rigorous training I had at Cleveland Bay (in Garbutt), very thorough training, that all came into play."
An investigation will be conducted into the incident.
Councillor Mary Brown, an aviation businesswoman based at the aerodrome, praised the pilot's training and the rapid response of emergency responders, including Ingham Police, the Queensland Fire Services and Queensland Ambulance Service.
Originally published as MIRACLE: Pilot behind incredible landing shares his story