Flyers endorsed

Memorial flight: Colleagues and friends of Ben Letham took to the skies above Queenstown on Monday in his honour PICTURE: ODT

A Queenstown school will allow commercial paragliders to continue to land on its field despite last month’s tragic accident.

Experienced pilot Ben Letham died two Saturdays ago when he lost control and landed on a building at Queenstown Primary School – during the holidays.

Letham, 26, worked for GForce Paragliding but was on a recreational solo flight.

The school board met with GForce last Friday.

After reviewing GForce’s procedures, board chair Jayne Macdonald says it has “an impeccable safety record”.

“At this stage the school is satisfied GForce can continue to operate in line with current arrangements.”

Only commercial flights can land at the Robins Road field. Recreational pilots land either at Queenstown Recreation Ground or nearby Warren Park.

There’s no suggestion Letham intended to land at the school.

Macdonald says it’s too early to say whether the school will call for a no-fly zone above it – particularly for recreational pilots performing tricks.

“There’s still a process to go through before anyone can make any judgements on that,” she says.

Civil Aviation Authority is investigating and the school awaits its findings and recommendations.

But, she says, there is concern about the potential for harm to people on the ground.

“This unfortunate accident has happened and shows despite everybody’s best efforts someone can fall from the air – that’s the wider concern.”

School principal Fiona Cavanagh says kids who asked what happened were told the facts on Monday.

Recommendations eventually made by CAA will be built into the GForce contract, she says.

GForce Paragliding co-director Gavin Taylor says the firm presented a full overview of its training and health and safety procedures at last Friday’s meeting.

“We appreciate the continued support and understanding of the board.”