The pilot and the female passenger stand by as aircraft
engineers inspect damage to a 1969 Piper Twin Comanche
aeroplane after it crashed through a fence at the end of
the Taieri Aerodrome runway yesterday. Photos by Peter
There was a look of horror as Hamilton pilot Richard
Small watched his 1969 Piper Twin Comanche touch down at Taieri
Aerodrome and crash off the end of the runway yesterday.
Just moments earlier, he commented how dirty his $200,000
plane looked, and how strange it felt to be watching it
rather than flying it as it did a high-speed fly-past over
the airfield about noon.
Slideshow: Light plane runway excursion at
As the plane made its final approach, and glided metres above
the runway, concern began to creep in.
''Gee, he's leaving that late,'' he said.
''He's going fast. He should go around again.''
When the plane touched down more than halfway down the
runway, pilots standing around him started asking each other
if they thought the pilot was going to pull up, go around
again - or if he was going to stop in time.
Then Mr Small was advised by a fellow pilot: ''Don't look,
don't look,'' as the plane ploughed through a fence at the
end of the runway and came to a halt.
Fortunately, the two men and the woman on board were able to
walk away without injury - not even a bruise.
And as organisers started to run towards the crash site,
pilots began offering Mr Small their commiserations over the
damage to his plane.
While he was concerned about his aeroplane, he was more
concerned at the time for those on board.
''It's just a piece of machinery.
''At least they got to walk away.''
The plane was one of more than 30 taking part in the Flying
New Zealand Air Safari, of which Mr Small is one of the
organisers - hence the reason he was not flying the plane.
The participants were flying in from Wanaka, and stopping at
Taieri Aerodrome to refuel and have lunch, before continuing
He had hired out his plane to the young trio so they could
take part in the safari.
After emergency services left the scene, he credited the
pilot for his good decision-making skills.
''These kinds of crashes happen. I've seen four or five go
through fences at the end of runways.
''Once he [the pilot] got that far into it, he was committed.
''He made the right decision to take the fence out because if
he had tried to boot the aeroplane and go around again, it
could have been a lot worse.''
The damage to the plane was ''relatively minor'' and mainly
affected the fuselage, he said.
The plane will be grounded at Taieri until it is repaired and
safety checked. Under New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority
regulations, the pilot was forbidden to speak to the Otago
Daily Times after the incident.
Flying New Zealand president John Brunskill believed the
pilot was experienced. He also believed the pilot did the
right thing by choosing to go through the fence.
Had he caught the fence while still in the air, it could have
flipped the plane, causing serious injury to those on board,
and damage to the plane, he said.
''Taking off and landing is the most dangerous time. It's all
Despite the incident, the 10-day Air Safari continued
otherwise as normal to Timaru yesterday afternoon.
Mr Small said the safari began in Masterton earlier this
week, and flew to Wanaka, via Hokitika, on Wednesday.
The plan was to do a ''figure eight'' around New Zealand. The
aircraft would fly around the North Island this weekend,
before finishing in Motueka on Wednesday next week.