An Auckland man, whose plane went missing yesterday morning, is renowned as a skilful pilot who has competed in precision flying world championships.
It is understood the sole occupant of the acrobatic biplane was 53-year-old Mt Wellington man Daroish Kraidy, a former South African air force pilot.
The search for his home-built plane began yesterday afternoon after his partner called police when she had not heard from him.
Kraidy left Ardmore airfield at 11.30am and was thought to be heading to Ponui Island, just east of Waiheke Island over the Tamaki Strait. However, his radar transponder ceased its signal minutes into the flight.
Search and Rescue mission controller Neville Blakemore said the Westpac rescue helicopter had started the search at the last point of radar contact - between Ardmore and Clevedon - while a RNZAF Orion had scoured the Firth of Thames.
Police co-ordinated the search east of the Ardmore airfield, checking potential landing sites but by nightfall no trace of Kraidy's plane had been found.
Blakemore said the distinctive blue and white, open cockpit, twin winged aircraft had a potential range of around 300km with a full tank of fuel, which would have run out at 1.30pm.
Kraidy had represented New Zealand at the Precision Flying World Championships and was the highest-placed Kiwi entrant in 2008.
On the team with him was John Brunskill. who rated his mate as "a very good pilot".
- Fairfax Media