A Tauranga-trained pilot described as a ``gifted pilot' has been hailed a hero for saving the lives of five people after crash landing her aircraft during a storm in Queensland.
Philippa Schofield, 23, executed a ``perfect' crash landing at Oakey, near Toowoomba.
The Toowoomba Chronicle reported sparks flew as the civilian twin-engine aircraft was forced to touch-down without wheels at the Oakey Army Aviation Base at 5.50pm on Monday when the landing gear malfunctioned.
The Piper Chieftain had taken off from Toowoomba and was on its way to Dalby to pick up three more passengers headed for a 10-day shift at the Clermont Mine.
Miss Schofield, a pilot for Central Airlines in Emerald, alerted authorities at 4.39pm when the landing gear didn't respond.
In fading light and with lightning flashing and heavy rain, she circled the base for more than an hour to use up fuel.
Miss Schofield, who has been flying for five-and-a-half years, cleared her mind when it came time to land.
``You just put it out of your mind really _ the fact that you didn't have wheels and it was going to make a bit of noise when you touched down,' she said.
``The only way was down, so I concentrated on keeping it nice and steady.'
The five miners on board all praised Miss Schofield's efforts.
Toowoomba resident Oddvar Feste was impressed.
``She was very cool, calm and collected,' Mr Feste said. ``She just kept explaining to us what we were going to do and it (the landing) went picture perfect. She is an exceptionally good pilot.'
Miss Schofield trained at Bay Flight International, becoming a BCat instructor and then senior instructor which included multi- engine training.
Phill Hooker, owner of Bay Flight International, said Miss Schofield was a gifted pilot.
``Her parents rang me to tell me about the crash and Pip also phoned me to say she was okay and to thank me for her training.'
He said Miss Schofield was very popular in aviation circles in Tauranga during her four years training and working with his company and was also very involved with the Airwomen in Aviation organisation.
She graduated two years ago.
Fellow woman pilot Trish Stephens, deputy club captain at Tauranga Aero Club, described Miss Schofield as ``a bloody neat girl' and a leading light in the field of aviation training in the Bay of Plenty.
After her commercial pilot's licence training, Miss Schofield became chief flying instructor for the aero club in Vanuatu before landing the job at Emerald.