Cameraman, pilot feared dead in jet crash

Plane Crash
MOUNT MARTHA, VICTORIA. NCA Newswire photo: A plane has crashed into the waters of Phillips Bay off Mt Martha in the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, Victoria, 29 November 2023. Police and other emergency services gather at a lookout on Esplanade Rd, Mt Martha. Picture: NCA Newswire / Tony Gough

A celebrated cameraman who worked on shows such as MasterChef and an experienced pilot have been identified as the two men feared dead in a horrific mid-air collision in Port Phillip Bay.

Pilot Stephen Gale, the owner of aviation company Jetworks Aviation which was involved in the crash, has been identified as the second man authorities are searching for on Monday.

James Rose was also on-board the jet that plummeted into the waters off the Mornington Peninsula on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Gale's partner is also a pilot and the pair regularly posted photos of their air adventures online. Photo: Facebook
Mr Gale's partner is also a pilot and the pair regularly posted photos of their air adventures online. Photo: Facebook
The 30-year-old plunged 20m into the water below.
30-year-old James Rose was in one of the planes which plunged 20m into the water below. Picture: Supplied

It is understood he was filming for a documentary TV show called Any Fool Can Fly when the jet he was in and another collided.

The show, which reportedly had its name changed to Jet School, was a five-part series in development without the backing of a broadcaster.

The premise of the show revolved around student pilots, from varying backgrounds, facing off to become more qualified pilots.

A promotional video introducing the concept is captioned with: “What would happen if you took a group of highly skilled individuals and taught them to fly, but didn’t stop there … Could they fly a fighter jet?”

Mr Gale is one of three alleged instructors listed as appearing in the show, tasked with passing on his “love of aviation” to the three student pilots, including comedian Tommy Little, maxillofacial surgeon Dr Mehrnoosh Dastaran and engineer Dr Jillian Kenny.

Formerly a RAAF engineer, Mr Gale’s company owns the two Viper S-211 Marchetti jet planes which collided.

Mr Gale often shared images of his flights to social media along with his partner Victoria Lowe.

Authorities confirmed on Monday morning the search for the pair of one of the planes had resumed.

Three helicopters from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority have joined Victoria Police Air Wing choppers to scour the water from above.

Volunteer marine rescue units are on boats searching the coast along with Water Police and uniformed police officers on the shoreline.

The two ex-military fighter jets collided mid-air approximately 12km off the coast, with Mr Rose’s jet plunging 20 metres into the water while the second plane managed to return to Essendon Airport while raising the alarm.

Mr Gale (right) taught comedian Tommy Little (left) to fly planes as a part of a television series. Photo: Facebook
Mr Gale (right) taught comedian Tommy Little (left) to fly planes as a part of a television series. Photo: Facebook
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Emergency services are combing the coastline for signs of Mr Rose and the pilot of the jet. Picture: NCA Newswire / Tony Gough
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There are grave concerns for the two men in the downed jet. Picture: NCA Newswire / Tony Gough

Mr Rose’s family were present at the Mount Martha Life Saving Club to hear news from the search and rescue mission being conducted nearby, the Herald Sun reports.

Harrowing audio captured the moment one pilot issued a mayday call in the aftermath of the collision.

“Viper 1 … mayday, mayday, mayday,” the pilot of the surviving jet radioed in.

“I am anticipating Viper 2 in the water … we can see a splash mark,” he said after being asked about the crash.

A huge search and rescue mission continues on Monday morning for the two people on the downed plane.

A plane tyre and another part of the wreckage has been found in the bay.

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Police remain near the water at Port Phillip Bay as the search continues. Picture: NCA Newswire / Tony Gough
Plane Crash
Coast guard vessels are now scouring the coast along with helicopters watching from above. Picture: NCA Newswire / Tony Gough

The planes are believed to be operated by Jetworks Aviation, which runs 45-minute joy flights for a $7750 price tag.

Simulating a military fighter jet experience, the experience promises ‘only one wing span separating the aircraft’ while flying.

“After you both kit up and take the obligatory photos (while you looking fresh faced), you will experience your combat leaders brief to prepare for the upcoming sortie,” the company’s website reads.

“You and your wingman will simultaneously depart Essendon Airport as a close formation pair.

“The two aircraft will perform some air show style formation aerobatic manoeuvres before separating into the ­dynamic combat formation. After crisscrossing over the bay in a modern dogfight, the two aircraft will return in formation passing close to Melbourne’s beautiful skyline.”

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will investigate the mid-air crash, gathering evidence from interviews, aircraft maintenance logs, recorded data, pilot information and documentation.

“The two-seat, civilian-operated ex-military jet trainer aircraft were reported to be conducting a formation flight over the bay,” an ATSB statement read.

“After the collision one of the aircraft is reported to have lost control and subsequently impacted the water, while the second recovered to Essendon Airport.”

More to come.