A plan to build a solar farm on the outskirts of Murray Bridge will put lives at risk, according to South Australia's most famous living aviator.
Chris Sperou is a 13-time national aerobatics champion who frequently shows off his death-defying stunts at public events, including the Murray Bridge Christmas pageant.
The only place in the state he can practice those skills is a one-kilometre square known as "the box" at the Pallamana Aerodrome, five kilometres north of Murray Bridge.
Renewable energy company RES last week won state government approval to build a $350 million, 176-megawatt solar farm less than a kilometre away from the aerodrome's runway.
While RES agreed to remove some solar panels from their final proposal, allowing more space for emergency landings in case of mechanical failure or pilot error, Mr Sperou said the development would still create a risk.
"The box is marked as an aerobatic danger area ... when they're training here for competititions, planes can practise down to the surface and up to 4000 feet," he said.
"If someone goes down in (the solar farm), they don't stand a chance."
Aerobatic pilots relied upon the visual cues they received by looking out of their cockpits, he said, and even a flash of sunlight reflected in the solar panels could be a fatal distraction.
"If they get distracted and disoriented ... in about two seconds you can be on the ground," he said.
Aerodrome owner Bill Antel said eight aircraft had been forced to land in the surrounding paddocks in his 35 years at Pallamana, including the solar farm site on two or three occasions.
Given the solar farm's proposed lifespan, and the fact several flying schools operated out of the aerodrome, an accident would be a real possibility between now and 2050.
"At the moment if you have an engine failure (when taking off to the south) there's a 90 per cent chance you'll walk away from it," he said.
"If there's a solar farm in that area, there's a 98pc chance you'll die."
The pilots also worried about dust that might blow off the paddock where the solar farm would be built, especially during construction.
Changing their habits to minimise the risk of an accident would be difficult, they said - the prevailing winds at Pallamana usually required planes to take off to the south, towards the solar farm site.
If a plane's engine failed while travelling in that direction, its pilot would have to land straight away, and would only be able to turn about 30 degrees to the left or right.
While the aviators who flew out of Pallamana could no longer hope to stop the solar farm being built, they hoped RES would take their concerns into account as they prepared plans for environmental and emergency management of the site.
Australian Community Media has sought comment from the company.
Construction at Pallamana is likely to start next autumn.
The solar farm would then become operational in mid-2021.
State MP Adrian Pederick welcomed its approval, saying it would create 200 direct and 320 indirect jobs during construction.
"It really is wonderful to see so much happening in the region, and with renewable energy in particular," he said.
Several more are in various stages of planning or construction.