Gliding clubs hit by deaths

Last updated 05:00 20/01/2014
Springfield, Canterbury
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ
ROUTINE FLIGHT: The charred remains of a tow-plane that crashed and burst into flames near Springfield, Canterbury, at 12.05pm yesterday, killing the sole occupant, Christchurch pilot Martin Lowen, 55.

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Two aircraft crashes claimed lives at either end of the country yesterday.

A glider pilot died in a crash on farmland south of Auckland and pilot Martin Lowen, 55, died in a crash earlier in the afternoon, west of Christchurch.

Mr Lowen's plane hit trees and burst into flames, police said.

The crash happened on private property on Springfield Rd, about 63 kilometres west of Christchurch, at 12.05pm.

St John ambulance staff attended but Mr Lowen was dead at the scene.

There were no passengers on board. Police said the aircraft had been towing a glider and had taken off from the nearby Canterbury Gliding Club airfield.

The gilder cut away, and the aircraft turned, hit trees and burst into flames, police said.

In the other fatality, police said a glider took off from the Auckland Gliding Club in Appleby Rd about 2pm.

The glider crashed about 4pm on farmland in the Drury Hills area.

A police spokesman said the pilot was located, deceased, by emergency services but a name had not yet been released as next-of-kin had not yet been notified.

Canterbury Gliding Club deputy chief flying instructor Warwick Bethwaite said Mr Lowen was an experienced pilot.

"He's been in aviation 20-plus years. He's spent a lot of hours in that particular plane," he said. It was "complete conjecture" what went wrong.

About five men from the club ran straight across after seeing the crash. Others alerted emergency services.

The plane, a PA28236 Dakota aircraft, had been leased by the club for many years.

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- Fairfax Media

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