Roads near crash site remained cordoned off on Monday. PHOTO/ELI HILL

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

Investigators yesterday continued to examine the crash site south of Masterton where the remains of two planes lie after a mid-air collision on Sunday.

Two pilots died in the crash, with the second body removed from the scene on Monday.

A cordon remains in place across the southern end of Hughes Line where it meets Cornwall Rd.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission is leading the investigation into the crash, with the assistance of the Civil Aviation Authority and police.

Michael O’Donnell of the Wairarapa Aero Club said authorities had taken possession of pilots’ log books to aid the investigation.

“In this case you’ve got a lot of other planes in the same airspace at the same time,” he said.

“This gives you more witnesses – and some of those witnesses are trained pilots, so hopefully that’ll help.”

There had been speculation from witnesses on the ground that sunstrike may have been a factor in the collision, but O’Donnell thought this was unlikely.

“The collision occurred at around 11.10am and the sun was just about reaching its peak. Generally sunstrike occurs when the sun is at either end of its cycle.”

O’Donnell said the sky above Hood Aerodrome was an uncontrolled airspace – one of around 100 around the country.

However, both the planes were well-equipped with radio communications.

“When you approach the aerodrome, you’re supposed to make a call stating your speed, altitude, direction, etc, to let other pilots know where you will be.

“You also follow a circuit, so people fly in the same direction at the same speed, so you know where to look.

“It’s very rare to have an accident like this.”

O’Donnell believed that both pilots were members of the aero club, and that anyone who worked or lived at the airfield would have known them.

“Most people who fly around here are members.”

O’Donnell said that the skydiving plane involved would have spent 15 to 20 minutes in the air during its flight, with the aero club training plane having a 20 to 30-minute flight time.

O’Donnell said it appeared likely both planes were heading to the aerodrome when they collided.

Sky Dive Wellington owner/operator Marty Lloyd said the crash had left everyone in a state of shock.

“None of us saw it, the parachutists had all landed on the ground and hadn’t seen the crash either.

“It’s been an absolute tragedy all round.”

While the pilot of the skydiving plane has yet to be named, Lloyd said he was “popular and was fitting in really well”.

“I’ve only got positives to say about them.”

A CAA spokesperson said investigators from its safety investigation unit were at the scene on Monday.

“Investigations like this often take a lot of time.”

The spokesperson said that the skydiving plane was a Cessna 185 Skywagon, with the aero club’s training plane involved a microlite Tecnam P2002-JF.

Wairarapa area investigations manager, Acting Detective Senior Sergeant, Haley Ryan, said investigators hoped to finish work at the scene over the next day or two.

Police have asked any eyewitnesses who have yet to come forward to call Masterton Police on [06] 370 0300.