'Lucky to be alive' after Tirau plane crash

Last updated 08:43 05/02/2014
dalton poppe
Petrice Tarrant/Fairfax NZ
ON THE MEND: Dalton Poppe faces another 12 weeks of recovery after a microlight crash.

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Adventurous Tirau aviator Dalton Poppe is back on his feet but not back in the air.

A month ago Mr Poppe, who turns 77 in a few weeks, was flown to Waikato Hospital with spinal injuries after he crashed his microlight aircraft during a takeoff from his farmlet just off State Highway 27 north of Tirau.

Recovering at home following three weeks in Waikato Hospital, Dalton vividly remembers events around the crash, which left him with a fractured back.

He recalls being caught in a wind shear - a strong wind gust.

"It (the wind) can throw you anywhere and that's what happened the other day. I tried to put on more power to gain altitude but the wind was just too strong," he said.

"I banked to get out of it but lost lift - it blew me around and that was it. All I saw was the ground coming towards me."

The fracture he suffered between his pelvis and number one vertebrae is a stark reminder of how close he came to meeting a worse fate.

"They said I was very lucky, well that's what the doc said," said Mr Poppe.

"I've had plenty of pain but they've given me enough painkillers to sink a ship."

However, he's not complaining and is grateful for the "wonderful" medical care and the support of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

Also he has great memories of 40 years of flying Cessnas and microlights.

It all began with a private pilot's licence and then a commercial licence "just for the challenge of it" which was only ever used for recreational purposes. He then obtained his microlight licence when medical reasons precluded the other licences.

"I've had a lot of fun flying over the years.

"I've flown people everywhere, all around the country, a number of times to the South Island, it's been great. I'm probably old enough now to give all that up," he laughed.

Although he's had three weeks confined to hospital and will be hobbling around home for 12 more weeks in a brace, he's not convinced that his flying days are completely behind him.

" I'm 77 in a couple of weeks' time. "A few weeks ago I would have said no, now I'm not so sure."

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- Waikato Times

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