Investigators probe death at “illegal” Algarve flying club

Air accident investigators are probing the death of septuagenarian British flyer Graham Dixon, killed last Thursday when the ultralight aircraft he was piloting crashed to the ground on scrubland in Quelfes, near Olhão (click here).

Tabloid Correio da Manhã says a spokesperson for GPIAAF (the Gabinete de Prevenção e Investigação de Acidentes com Aeronaves e Acidentes Ferroviários) has said it is still “too early to produce any information on the causes of the accident”.

Civil aviation authority ANAC is quoted as saying the Pegasus Flying Club that Dixon belonged to “functioned in an illegal way”.

But fellow member George Owen, 74, has explained that the group is “just a bunch of friends” with their own planes who “enjoy getting together to fly”.

“We are not commercial in any way”, he told the Resident.

“I think somewhere on the internet someone who came up with us in the past has written that we offer flights over Ria Formosa, but it’s all done for fun.

“If people want to come with us, we accept donations for fuel – but that’s all it is: a donation. We are not a business in any way”.

Owen has been flying with the club since it began five years ago, and was actually with Graham Dixon on the day he died.

“We had all had a perfectly good flight together half an hour before”, he said.

But Dixon decided he “wanted to do it on his own” and he took his plane up for a second time.

Said Owen: “I am still trying to get over it. I was on the ground when it happened”.

As far as George Owen can tell, Dixon simply “got it all wrong”.

Divorced and living in Armação de Pêra, Dixon only passed his pilot’s licence three months ago, said Owen – suggesting he took his flying course further west in Lagos.

A call to Lagos Aerodrome to confirm this today rang unanswered.

Meantime George Owen told us that the club has agreed to “have a break for a couple of weeks” just to let the shock of the tragedy pass.

Graham Dixon’s funeral is ‘on hold’ pending the arrival of his family from the UK, said his former flying mate.

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