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By Fiona Gounden and Tash Reddy
Two planes belonging to the same Durban flight school, Starlite Aviation at Virginia Airport, had to make emergency landings on Friday.
The first plane, a Piper Cherokee with a trainee pilot and an instructor on board, had to land at La Mercy Beach at about 11am and the second, a Piper Pacer, also with a pilot and an instructor in it, dived into a hedge on the sea side of Virginia Airport at about 3.30pm.
No one was injured in either close call.
In the first incident the plane started giving problems while the instructor, Rudy van der Merwe, was taking pilot Amad Syed, from Iraq, for a training flight.
Van der Merwe said: "Amad was in South Africa for 10 days and had decided to go for flying lessons... when the engine cut out. Then there was a fuel blockage. We didn't panic and decided to make an emergency landing."
The SAPS, fire brigade and emergency services and Netcare 911 battled for hours to remove the plane from La Mercy Beach.
Divisional Commander of the Fire and Emergency Rescue Services for the Durban North Region, Bruce de Gier, said their major concern was to remove the plane before the high tide came in.
Speaking about both accidents, Keith Charlesworth of Starlite Aviation, said: "In the first case there was general engine failure when the pilot was on his normal route. The engine cut as soon as they approached the climb. The pilot managed to make a superb landing.
"The second incident was not so serious and the plane, which is nearly 55 years old, functions a bit differently as you can't stop it as fast at the newer planes. The pilot had problems with directional control on landing but managed to bring it to a halt without causing any major damage. People should not over-react as these were both minor incidents. Our skilled trainee pilots showed great talent in their emergency landings."
Both planes are at Virginia Airport where they are being inspected and repaired.