15 Jun 2011

Airship pilot put passengers first

5:40 am on 15 June 2011

An Australian airship pilot saved the lives of his three passengers before the craft exploded and crashed, killing him, in Germany.

Michael Nerandzic, 53, was trying to land near Frankfurt on Sunday when the airship caught fire.

He lowered the craft to two metres above the ground so his passengers could jump off. The sudden loss of weight caused the ship to shoot into the air and exploded.

His wife Lyndy on Tuesday said from the couple's home in Wollongong that her husband would have known his fate as the passengers jumped from the ship.

''He would have known ... that he didn't have a chance,'' she told the Seven Network. '''They found him still at the controls."

The zeppelin had been making a promotional flight. The passengerswere from a TV crew.

Mr Nerandzic had piloted airships for 26 years.