Detective Inspector Scott Miller and Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson at Sunday’s media briefing. PHOTO/ELI HILL

Mid-air crash under clear blue skies
‘Very close-knit aviation community’ hit hard

ELI HILL and GIANINA SCHWANEKE

Two pilots are dead after their planes collided in mid-air on Sunday morning about a kilometre south of Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome, near Hughes Line.

One of the planes, believed to have been operated by Skydive Wellington, had been preparing to land back at the aerodrome after taking four parachutists for a jump.

It collided with a training plane operated by Wairarapa Aero Club.

Michael O’Donnell of the club confirmed that one of their members had died in the crash.

Police have not released the names of the pilots, but Area commander for Wairarapa Police, Detective Inspector Scott Miller said the impact, which he described as “very severe”, had happened at a height of around 90 metres.

“Both planes dropped immediately after impact and most likely both pilots were killed at that impact.

The crash site near Hughes Line. PHOTO/TOM BEATTIE

“The planes have come to rest on the ground about 100m apart.”

The crash is being investigated by the police, Civil Aviation Authority, and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Miller said there had been an immediate response from people.

“The site of the crash was close to a house. Two or three people came to help – both pilots were deceased in the time they got there.”

Police were called to the scene at around 11.15am along with firefighters and fire engines from Masterton, Carterton, Greytown and Palmerston North who put out the fire which started as a result of the crash.

Wellington Free Ambulances also attended, and a cordon was set up on the northern end of Hughes Line where it intersects with Cornwall Rd.

The road remained closed Sunday night.

Miller said police were hoping to take one of the pilots’ bodies from the scene Sunday night while the other was to be removed yesterday.

While both pilots had “local connections”, Miller said police were having trouble locating and speaking to one of the families of deceased.

The airfield has been declared a no-fly zone while the investigation is under way.

A helicopter pilot coming in to land at the aerodrome as the crash had happened was a witness for police.

Hood Aerodrome is owned and operated by Masterton District Council and Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson spent much of yesterday on-site.

“This is a very, very close-knit aviation community here at Hood and so I’ve been taken quite a few calls from the community in general.

“[People are] just expressing sorrow at what has happened. This is a well-used airfield for a lot of recreational fliers … it has a range of aviation activities so there is a lot of interest and a lot of concern.”