Two missing after former military Marchetti jets collide in Australia

Credit: FotoSleuth / Wikimedia Commons

Emergency services in Australia are searching for two people who were onboard one of two former military jets that collided mid-air over Port Phillip Bay, near Melbourne on November 19, 2023. 

Pilot Stephen Gale, an experienced aviator with a background in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), was at the helm of one of the Viper S-211 Marchetti jets when it collided with another aircraft. The collision sent Gale’s jet crashing into the bay. Accompanying Gale was James Rose, a cameraman and drone operator.  

According to reports, the pair were filming for a documentary series titled ‘Jet School,’ which is aimed at teaching novices advanced flying skills, including aerobatics and formation flying. 

The Italian manufacturer SIAI-Marchetti created the Viper S-211 Marchetti in the late 1970s as a cost-effective training and light attack aircraft for military use. It was renowned for its versatility and efficiency. 

Despite being demilitarized for non-military use, these jets are still popular in civilian aviation for training and recreational flying. 

According to Channel Nine, the other aircraft involved in the incident, another light Marchetti plane, managed a safe landing at Essendon Fields Airport (MEB) with minor damage.  

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), along with other emergency services, immediately launched a search and recovery operation​. 

Chief Commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Angus Mitchell, told ABC News that the aircraft appeared to be flying in formation and were in close proximity to one another. 

“We think it was conducting a photo shoot or promotional shoot and one of them has impacted the other,” he said, as quoted by ABC News.  

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