Sky News reports…
“A Christian missionary who allegedly tried to wrestle the controls from a young pilot mid-air, forcing an emergency landing, is a well-travelled pilot with years of experience.
Les Nixon is recovering in hospital after a 23-year-old pilot was forced to subdue him when Mr Nixon allegedly grabbed the controls of the four-seater Duchess light aircraft in which they were airborne.
The pilot, named in media reports as James Chandler, has told police Mr Nixon, 82, started switching off fuel lines and pushing control buttons.
The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in a paddock near Oberon in the central tablelands on Monday afternoon.
Mr Nixon suffered head and facial injuries in the scuffle and was taken to Westmead Hospital.
Police officers spoke with doctors at the hospital on Tuesday but are still waiting to interview Mr Nixon over the bizarre incident.
Mr Nixon is an experienced pilot and has flown to isolated corners of Australia as part out of the Christian outreach program Australia’s Outback Patrol.
He had headed the program with his wife, Martha.
On its website the program is described as: ‘A Christian community service to the outback community, continuously from 1961.
‘To towns too small for a church but too big to overlook. In association with churches of all denominations, and schools in all states.’
Chifley police Inspector Mark Wall said Mr Nixon walked into the office of Australia By Air at Bankstown Airport on Monday and arranged a flight to Cowra.
Midway through the flight, Mr Chandler’s control over the plane was allegedly compromised.
Basair Aviation College’s managing director David Trevelyan praised Mr Chandler’s handling of the situation.
He said the young pilot was able to regain control of the aircraft after issuing an emergency ‘Pan-Pan’ announcement.
A pan call is when the pilot is in trouble but not in a life-threatening situation.
‘I would like to praise the actions of the pilot. He showed fantastic skill,’ Mr Trevelyan said.
‘He did an excellent job in an amazingly difficult scenario … and under tremendous pressure.’
Mr Nixon’s friend Phil Lamb told Network 10 Mr Nixon was a very experienced pilot.
‘It certainly has come as a surprise,’ he said.”