Experienced pilot in plane crash

CRASH SURVIVOR: Two men injured in a light plane crash in rural Canterbury are transfered to ambulances from the rescue helicopter.
CRASH SURVIVOR: Two men injured in a light plane crash in rural Canterbury are transfered to ambulances from the rescue helicopter.

Two men on a training flight were lucky to escape with only broken bones after their plane crashed into a paddock north of Christchurch.

Canterbury Aero Club chief executive Peter Randle said the pilots made a forced emergency landing while on a training flight yesterday.

The two men, aged 32 and 27, were flown to hospital last night by rescue helicopter

The two-seater Piper Tomahawk plane crashed at Burnt Hill, near Oxford in North Canterbury, about 6.15pm yesterday.

Randle had spoken to the men last night and this morning, and said both were in good spirits and keen to get back to flying as soon as their injuries allowed.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter pilot Stuart Farqhar said the two men were lucky to survive the crash with just broken bones and multiple trauma injuries. He believed the plane may have struck trees and then nosedived.

"I would say they are extremely lucky under the circumstances," he said.

Randle said the instructor was one of the club's most experienced pilots, and the student was one of the more senior students. He was almost ready to graduate the training course, which requires 240 flight hours.

The pair were performing a low-level training exercise, which Randle said meant there was less time to react to an issue during flight.

He said a mechanical problem could have caused the accident, but further information would not be available until the men were well enough to speak in depth.

''We haven't had a chance yet to talk with them about what really happened,'' he said.

Both men remained conscious after the crash, and were able to call for help. But Randle said an emergency transmitter on board the plane was also triggered by the impact, so even if the men had been knocked unconscious the rescue helicopter would have been able to find them.

Two firefighters travelled to the crash site on the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to help free the two people from the wreckage.

A St John spokesman said one of the men suffered breaks in his lower leg and facial cuts, while the other broke both ankles and had bruising to his chest.

The pair remained conscious throughout their ordeal and was flown to Christchurch Hospital, both in a moderate to serious condition.

One of the men had surgery this morning to set broken bones.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said the wreckage was being transported to a secure location for further inquiries. He said a decision would be made next week whether the CAA would undertake a detailed safety investigation.

''We'll determine what to do when we actually interview the pilot and the student."

Randle said the club was confident with its safety protocol and was keen to find out what happened and learn from it.

''An accident where the pilots survive is an excellent outcome.''

The Press