Plane parts returned to Tararua crash site

Parts of a plane wreckage taken in an act damned by conservation officials as "daylight robbery" have now been returned to the crash site in the Tararua Range.

The plane's engine and a wing tip, which were covertly removed early last year, have been flown back to the remote hilltop.

The return followed a deal struck between Wairarapa Helicopters and the New Zealand Sport and Vintage Aviation Society, which took the parts without permission from the families of the dead pilots, and the Conservation Department.

The RNZAF Devon's parts, which had remained in the ranges on Shingle Slip Knob since the crash on February 17, 1955, were taken to the society's hangars at Masterton's Hood Aerodrome.

The society planned to display the engine at the George Hood Museum when it is completed this year.

Society president Tom Williams said there was never any intention to desecrate a memorial and the society was not aware it needed formal consent to take parts of the wreckage for display.

The wreckage rested 100 metres from the white crosses that marked the graves of Flight Lieutenants Edward Casey and William Trott, the two young pilots who died in the crash. The removal caused grief for the pilots' families and angered the Conservation Department.

Department Wairarapa area manager Chris Lester said apart from being a memorial to the pilots, the wreck was marked on some older Tararua park maps as an emergency shelter.

The wreckage also belonged to the Crown, as it was on Crown land, and any attempts to recover the plane had to be granted consent.

"We all agreed last year that the only solution was to put things right, but it has been a waiting game for the weather to be just right."

On Christmas Eve, conditions were near perfect, and the parts were returned. Those involved in their removal have been given a stern warning.

The Dominion Post