Plane crash; four safe

Police and Queenstown Airport fire rescue staff examine a Cessna 177 that crashed just after take-off at the airport yesterday. Photo: Guy Williams
Police and Queenstown Airport fire rescue staff examine a Cessna 177 that crashed just after take-off at the airport yesterday. Photo: Guy Williams
The pilot of a light plane that crashed just after take-off at Queenstown Airport yesterday is ''pretty shaken up'', the plane's owner says.

Richard Lee said he spoke only briefly to the pilot, another resident of the resort who occasionally hired the Cessna 177 from him.

They did not talk about the crash cause, but he understood the pilot was taking three passengers for a scenic flight.

''He just wanted to keep his hours up.''

Mr Lee, who owns the resort's Caltex petrol station, said his plane was a write-off, ''but when everyone walks away from it, it doesn't matter''.

He only bought the plane in April after selling a Cessna 172 last December

He last flew the Cessna 177 a fortnight ago.

Civil Aviation Authority spokeswoman Philippa Lagan said it appeared the aircraft experienced engine failure just after lifting off from the airport's main runway about 8.45am.

The front-seat passenger was taken to Lakes District Hospital for treatment for an ankle injury

The remaining occupants were unhurt.

The badly damaged aircraft, which came to rest on grass beside the runway towards the eastern end, was lifted on to a truck and taken to an airport storage facility about 11.45am.

Ms Lagan said the CAA's investigation, which began yesterday, would include interviews with the pilot, passengers, witnesses and police.

Witness Mauro Andaur told the Otago Daily Times he was at his workplace on the northern side of the runway when he saw the plane take off and then hit the ground hard with a ''strong sound''.

There were no flames or smoke, and he saw the pilot and one of the passengers walk away from the aircraft.

Airport communications manager Jen Andrews said the airport's emergency response plan was activated immediately.

All flight operations were suspended immediately, and 10 scheduled airline flights were affected before operations resumed at 10.50am.

A police media adviser confirmed officers responded to a request by airport staff to monitor the behaviour of passengers at its checkout counters who were ''unhappy with the delays''.

One person was given a pre-charge warning for disorderly behaviour about 11.30am, but there had been ''no major issues''.

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