Survivors quizzed after fatal crash
Investigators are focusing on mechanical analysis of a plane wreck after speaking to American survivors of the sightseeing flight in Lord of the Rings country.
Glenorchy Air's senior pilot Ray Crow was killed last Tuesday when the Piper Cherokee 6 crashed near Poolburn, about 20km east of Alexandra.
Robert and Janet Rutherford's family-run firm temporarily suspended operations. Eric and Sarah Hoffman, of Texas, were seriously injured but have recovered enough to speak to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and media.
Commission chief investigator Tim Burfoot yesterday said interviews with the Hoffmans provided useful information. "Any live witness, they can tell us what they heard and saw and what they didn't see and hear can be relevant."
The commission was unable to determine the cause of the crash at such an early stage but today independent testing was to start on the engine. Burfoot said it was a process of elimination and he hoped to reach a conclusion sooner than the commission's usual 12-month turnaround on investigations.
"Was there a mechanical or engine problem? We've got the wreckage including the engine in our workshop in Wellington. The engine will be sent to an independent maintenance facility to tear it down and test all the components.
"The guys as we speak are still poring over the rest of the wreckage. Did the pilot have control. Were the cables intact?"
The commission was liaising with American counterpart agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Florida-based manufacturer Piper Aircraft.
The manufacturer provided the commission with technical specifications of the aircraft and was on standby to help more although, at this stage, there was no need for company personnel to travel to New Zealand, he said.
Componentry could also be sent to parts' manufacturers for testing and re-interviewing the Hoffmans via American authorities was also a possibility.
The single-engine Piper was equipped with a common Lycoming engine. According to New Zealand civil aviation commentators, the model is regarded as a stalwart six-seater aircraft.
The Southland Times