Crash pilot was due to take test

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 14:03 24/03/2014

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The two men who were killed when their plane nosedived into a Hastings river can now be named.

They were Christopher Rawlings, 48, of Clive, and Christopher Howell, 46, of the United Kingdom.

The pair were in radio contact with colleagues only minutes before the crash below a low-flying training area near the settlement of Maraekakaho yesterday.

Emergency services were called to the scene at 11.24am but found the men dead in the plane owned by the Bridge Pa aero club.

Howell was brushing up on his skills before sitting an exam to convert his British pilot's licence to a New Zealand-approved licence, Hawke's Bay and East Coast Aero Club president Bruce Govenlock said.

The exam was meant to be today.

All applicants for a New Zealand commercial pilot's licence with valid overseas qualifications must complete a flight test with a flight examiner. They must also clear a medical certificate and pass a written exam.

The Piper PA-38 Tomahawk was a "robust" model widely used for training, and the crashed plane was about 30 years old, Govenlock said.

Club members were still coming to terms with the loss of an experienced local instructor.

"Aviation is a tight community," he said.

"Everyone in the aerodrome will know him, and to have one of your own colleagues suffer today and then find out about it in the manner they found out - it's going to be tough. The club has suffered a pretty terrible tragedy." Matapiro resident Alison Arthur watched as the tragedy unfolded.

"It was a little tiny plane and it made a strange noise and it rolled a little bit too, I think, about a 45-degree angle in the water's direction as it was going up, then it nosedived," she said.

"I heard this bang and that was it. It was all gone."

The noise of the impact was so loud it spooked the horses and one bolted, jumping a fence, she said.

Lowe Corporation rescue helicopter pilot Jeremy Bruce spotted the plane's wreckage and described its tail sticking up out of about a metre of water in a channel of the braided river.

The Civil Aviation Authority will investigate the cause of the crash.

Yesterday's accident follows the death of Donald Carlton Kain, 53, in a helicopter crash at a logging site near Gisborne on Thursday, which left the pilot in hospital.

Bruce said he knew the pilot, and it was heartbreaking to see the Tomahawk wreck so soon afterwards.

"I guess it hits home that it's a risky business," he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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