Fatal plane crash caused by mid-air collision

A mid-air plane crash which killed two women in Manawatu was caused when the wing of one light aircraft was clipped by the tyre of the other, an interim report into the incident has found.

Flight instructor Jess Neeson, 27, and her student Patricia Smallman, 64, died in the July 2010 crash between two Cessna C152s over Feilding. Their plane - ZK-TOD - went into a "steep descending spiral dive" before smashing into a farmer's paddock on Durie Road. It was destroyed on impact.

Another student, flying the second aircraft, successfully managed to land the damaged plane at the training school's airstrip.

It is likely the two Cessnas collided as the uninjured student climbed higher into the air while Ms Neeson and Mrs Smallman were making their way back towards Feilding Aerodrome, an interim factual report into the tragedy by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) states.

"Impact marks on the leading edge of the right wing [of aircraft ZK-TOD] were consistent with having been struck by a tyre, with black rubber deposit on the surface of the indentation," the reports said.

"Outer sections of the right wing, including the aileron, were found about 280 metres north of the main wreckage."

The engine of the second plane, ZK-JGB, stopped soon after the mid-air collision and the student managed to glide back to the aerodrome and land on the side of the runway.

He later told investigators he "heard a loud noise and the aircraft nose then pulled down".

"The fixed non-retractable nose wheel of ZK-JGB had been forced rearward. The fuel line to the carburettor was broken, as well as the carburettor. This is considered the most likely reason for the engine stopping in flight," TAIC investigators concluded.

The commission said it had a number of lines of inquiry still to investigate, including the standard of pilot training in New Zealand and whether the growing level of pilot training in the country had an effect on the level of air traffic services at uncontrolled aerodromes, like the Feilding one.

The inquiry was yet to establish if any malfunction in either aircraft could have contributed to the collision, it said.

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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