Pilot's landing of Yak 3 at show defended

Pilot Arthur Dovey signals he is unscathed.
Pilot Arthur Dovey signals he is unscathed. Photo: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A participant in the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow has defended pilot Arthur Dovey whose Yak 3 aircraft crashed into a cherry picker on landing at Wanaka Airport on Saturday.

The man, who did not want to be identified, told the Otago Daily Times he did not attend all the pilot briefing before the show, and therefore could not say ''categorically'' that pilots were not warned of the cherry pickers on the airfield.

''However, I was there when everyone in the room was told that both grass runways were open and available for their full length.''

By ''both'' the man said it was clear that included the strip of land described by another participant at the airshow as an ''ungroomed'' piece of land not intended for pilots to use for landing.

The strip of land was where two cherry pickers were parked, waiting to take part in a pyrotechnic display.

The man said the person running the briefing ''explicitly referred to both as grass runways.

''I previously wasn't aware that there were two parallel grass runways there, although there is plainly enough room.''

''At no point did he refer to the centre section of the field as anything other than a full grass runway.''

Mr Dovey was invited to open the airshow after a United States air force F-16 was unable to, because of bad weather.

The man said pilots at the briefing were warned against ''ad hoc'' changes to routines.

''One of the most basic tenets of an airshow display is that pilots will stick to their authorised display routine and will not introduce new ad hoc elements to their display.

''At the briefing on Saturday morning, the pilots were presented with an overhead slide which explicitly stated that there were to be no ad hoc changes to their displays.

''Unfortunately, from what I can see, the airshow itself underwent an ad hoc change when the F-16s could not open the show as planned, and when the Yak 3s were substituted instead.

''At that point, there was a failure to identify that the cherry pickers on the runway would now constitute a hazard when previously - when the F-16s were going to display and not land - they weren't.''

The cherry picker into which Arthur Dovey's Yak 3 plane crashed. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The cherry picker into which Arthur Dovey's Yak 3 plane crashed. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

Another aviator has questioned a suggestion Mr Dovey's landing approach was too fast, and that he should have gone round.

''Arthur did not come in too fast at all.''

The aviator said because of the Yak's nose up, tail down landing attitude it would ''float'' rather than land if it was travelling too fast.

''It just came in and landed beautifully. The bottom line is the cherry picker shouldn't have been there.''

However, he believed there would be ''a whole lot of reasons'' why the crash occurred.

Investigations are under way by show organisers and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Wanaka Airport was taken over by the Queenstown Airport Corporation on April 1 and communications adviser Naomi Lindsay said yesterday during normal operations, Wanaka had one grass and one sealed runway.

However, during the airshow, it was up to the show organisers how they operated the airfield.

mark.price@odt.co.nz

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