Harbour Bridge stunt lands pilot in deep water

Harbour Bridge stunt lands pilot in deep water, by Natalie Gregg
- 5th May 2004
(Credit: The Courier Mail)

A former flight instructor and Griffith University graduate is being investigated after flying a plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Saturday.

Authorities were baffled as to why Louise Campbell, 23, of Geebung on Brisbane's north side, carried out the brazen stunt – which could result in a two-year jail term.

Two investigators were interviewing Ms Campbell yesterday in the first stage of a joint inquiry with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said Ms Campbell faced serious charges and could lose her licence.

"If she was found guilty of reckless and dangerous flying – that carries a maximum two-year jail penalty," Mr Gibson said.

Ms Campbell was believed to be flying the single-engined Gazelle with the plane's owner, Sunshine Coast aerial photographer Peter Bellingham, as a passenger.

Mr Gibson said it was illegal to fly under the bridge where the carriageway is 59m above the water.

He said only police and emergency aircraft were allowed to fly under the bridge.

Ms Campbell took off from Bankstown airport and followed a scenic flight route that was supposed to end at the Opera House.

Pilots must contact air traffic control to gain permission to fly the route, and can request to do a circle over the water before they return to the airport.

Ms Campbell told police she did not know flying under the bridge was illegal.

Mr Gibson said Ms Campbell was a commercial pilot as well as an ultralight pilot and should have known better.

"She must have understood the reasons why she shouldn't have flown under the bridge," Mr Gibson said.

Ms Campbell drove back from Sydney on Monday.

She refused to comment when approached yesterday. Her boyfriend said she was seeking legal advice from a specialist aviation lawyer.

Ms Campbell obtained her commercial pilot licence in June 2001 through Griffith's School of Aviation and Arena Aviation. She was awarded Arena Student of the Year Award in 2001.

As an instructor she worked at Redcliffe's Australian Air Flying School until February this year.

Since then she has worked as a charter pilot for Mr Bellingham's aerial photography company.

Mr Bellingham did not wish to comment.

The Federal Government had previously identified the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a top terrorist target and NSW police have employed 24-hour security guards for the bridge since November last year.

A spokesman for federal Transport Minister John Anderson said it was impossible to prevent aircraft from flying near the Harbour Bridge. Instead the Federal Government was controlling aircraft licences.

"By July 1 all pilots will be issued photographic licences, to replace paper licences," he said.

"All current and future licences will involve background checking by a number of intelligence agencies including ASIO."

A spokesman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the Government was concerned with any breach of security, but this incident was a breach of regulations.


Media websites

The Courier Mail

The Sydney Morning Herald

Government websites

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

Photography websites

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