Sightings of missing plane being analysed

The missing plane
The missing plane
Searchers conducting a coastal air search for a missing bi-plane that disappeared yesterday are analysing possible sightings reported by members of the public.

The small aircraft took off from Ardmore airfield, south-east of Auckland at 11.25am yesterday.

The home-built aerobatic bi-plane, carrying only the 53-year-old male pilot from Mt Wellington, was heading in a north-easterly direction when it disappeared from radar, shortly after take-off.

No distress beacon was activated but the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) launched a search, after a friend of the pilot reported concern for his safety.

Reported sightings by members of the public indicate the aircraft may have continued flying in a north-easterly direction.

The Westpac Trust helicopter from Auckland is searching the northern end of Coromandel Peninsula coastline, and the Tauranga rescue helicopter is conducting a coastal search from Waihi to Whitianga. An RNZAF P3 Orion is searching up to 200km off the coast, to the north east of Great Barrier Island.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue mission controller Neville Blakemore said a number of sighting reports from the public were continuing to be received and analysed.

"This information is very useful in determining search areas and we are grateful for the help of the public with this operation," he said. "This is quite a distinctive blue and white aircraft and we are still interested in hearing from people who may have seen it yesterday."

With the fuel on board when the aircraft left Ardmore, it would have had a maximum range of around 350km. Fuel would have been exhausted by about 1.30pm.

Anyone with sightings of the aircraft can contact RCCNZ on 0508 472 269 or the police.


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