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An unlucky Auckland pilot had his fair share of problems today after not only making an emergency landing on a crowded beach, but then crashing into the surf when he tried to take-off again.
Hundreds of people were on the beach at the time, but the fact that nobody, including the two onboard the aircraft were injured, has the Civil Aviation Authority impressed with his piloting skills.
The drama unfolded at Martins Bay beach, near Warkworth, when engine trouble hit the single-engine microlight about 3km offshore.
A group of about 500 people had gathered on the beach for a sandcastle-making competition before the aircraft skimmed over their heads and landed further along the shore.
Martins Bay Holiday Park manager Linda Brickland ran to the pilot, Dennis Horn and co-pilot Manfred Scherbius to check on their condition.
The timing of the landing "couldn't have been more perfect", because the crowd of beachgoers were gathered at one end for the sandcastle competition instead of spread along the beach.
Police arrived and cleared the beach so the pair could attempt a take-off.
"The take-off failed. He hit water and a bit of soft sand and went sideways, causing the propeller to break and a wing to break.
"He won't be able to fly off now."
The Jabiru J200 microlight was on its first flight, from Ardmore to Whangarei, since a new engine was installed, One News reported.
Mr Horn told One News that hearing the engine stop was the last thing a pilot would want to hear, "especially when he's only got one engine".
"We actually landed on some rocks which was a bit rough but it only damaged the aircraft slightly."
CAA spokesman Mike Richards said it was not illegal to land on a beach in an emergency and it appeared the men made the best of a bad situation.
"The key is that the pilot was able to land successfully and walk away from it.
"In the circumstances the pilot's done a commendable job getting down without any injury."
It was an "amazing story", Mr Richards said.
There was bad luck in the take-off though, he said, with the aircraft "ending up in the drink".
Police did the right thing in clearing the beach and giving the pilot a chance to move the plane from the area.
An investigation would be conducted into the cause of the crash, Mr Richards said.
- Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ