Crash landing in orchard
"Something made it stop and that was the end of that."
That was pilot Shafid Kahn's matter-of-fact summary of the engine failure in his microlight that forced him to crash-land in a kiwifruit orchard in Motueka yesterday afternoon.
Kahn, 63, launched the microlight from the top of Mt Arthur, and was flying for about 30 minutes, on his way back to Motueka Airport, when the engine stopped about 12.30pm.
The Motueka computer programmer said the failure was "somewhat" scary but he kept his mind busy in the 10 minutes of gliding the aircraft by planning how to land.
"I was planning the height and speed, to see if I could get back to the airfield. I thought I could, and then I couldn't so I had to look around and see if I could find a place to land."
He said it was not too difficult gliding the craft as long as the conditions were suitable. He had practised cutting off the engine to crash-land.
He was aiming for the runway, but "ran out of height and speed".
"Somewhere along the line you make a decision, if you can't make it there you have plan b, c, and d - plan b was the orchard."
The microlight ended up wedged between two kiwifruit rows, and Kahn was able to walk away.
He said had been safely flying microlight aircraft for more than 35 years and flew about once a week in the aircraft involved in yesterday's crash.
After the accident, friends and other aircraft owners helped him dismantle the plane and remove it.
Friends told him he was lucky to escape unharmed, though Kahn said the cost of it was a concern.
"It could be buggered."
He had to speak with his insurance company to see if the plane was worth fixing.
Despite the crash, he still wanted to fly. He said flying a microlight was a great way to see New Zealand and travel for business.
"People take days to get somewhere, they walk to the top of a hill for a good view. I can get up there in 10 minutes to look at the views. Travelling-wise it was very good; for me to go and do a job in Taupo it used to take days to get on the ferry and drive, but in the plane I can be there in 2.5 hours."
Skydive Abel Tasman pilot Shawn Hansen was the first to call emergency services when he saw the plane was in difficulty from his office window in College St. Hansen's office looked out to the airport runway and he always kept an eye out for aircraft.
The microlight landed a block over from him, near Whakarewa St. "I knew something was going wrong with that one, it was low and slow and it wasn't heading in the right direction of the runway. It was heading south. I thought straightaway he was looking for a paddock, or would try and make it [to the airport]. He obviously had an engine failure, either full or partial."
He said there was only "a handful" of privately-owned microlight aircraft that used the Motueka Airport.
- The Nelson Mail
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