'Nothing wrong with plane' before crash landing

By Ian Stuart

A former air force aircraft that crash landed at Ohakea today on its way to the Wellington rugby sevens tournament had no faults, pilot Paul Jones says.

He said the former air force Devon, made a heavy landing at the Ohakea air force base as it came in to land.

It had been forced down by the weather on a flight to Wellington, where the nine passengers intended to go to the rugby tournament.

Mr Jones, 44, one of the syndicate members who owned the aircraft, told NZPA that no one was hurt and the aircraft would be repaired.

He said the landing gear was down and there was nothing wrong with the Devon to cause an emergency.

"It was just a precautionary landing and it didn't work out for the best," he said.

"The aircraft is damaged and the guys will be going to the rugby in a van."

He said the incident had nothing to do with the landing gear.

"The aircraft was 100 per cent operational. There were no aircraft issues, probably just an accident," said Mr Jones, who has flown 600 hours in the Devon.

Mr Jones would not speculate further when asked if it was just a heavy landing which damaged the undercarriage.

"I don't know. I have still to go through all that in my own head."

He said he could not have given the passengers any warning of the accident because he did not know it was about to happen.

None of the nine passengers was hurt.

The Devon, one of 30 retired by the air force in 1980 and one of only four still flying in New Zealand on the civil register, were "bloody fantastic" aircraft to fly, Mr Jones said.

"I have got 600 hours in the aircraft. I have flown it right to the top of Australia, all round New Zealand. It is a great aircraft.

"The aircraft was in fantastic condition."

He said the syndicate would look at repairing the Devon.

Mr Jones has been part of the syndicate which owned the aircraft for seven years.

He said he felt a bit shaky after the crash.

"The blood pressure is up according to the doctor," Mr Jones said.

The air force took delivery of its first two Devons in 1948 with 28 more being delivered in 1951.

The last was retired in 1980.

Defence Public Relations squadron leader Glenn Davis said the Devon was privately owned but the air force's flying operations had not been affected at Ohakea.

Mr Davis said the Air Force crash unit and the Ohakea medical unit had responded to the crash.

Arrangements were being made to transport the passengers and crew from the Base.

Mr Davis said the Civil Aviation Authority would investigate the crash.

The British-built Devons were bought as pilot, navigator and signals trainers and also as communications transporters.

They were originally named the De Havilland Dove but the name was not considered suitable for a military aircraft and it was changed to Devon.

New Zealand's first two aircraft were built as Doves but the remaining 28 were Devons.

During their time with the air force, seven were lost in service, 10 were sold and two were given to the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

Several were also put into storage or used as instructional air frames.

The last, NZ1822, was retired in 1981, ending the air force's association with the Devon. They were replaced by the Fokker F27 Friendship and the Cessna Gold Eagle.

Apart from the four flying on the civil register in New Zealand, several were being restored.

The twin-engined aircraft were powered by 400 horsepower Gipsy Queen engines. They had a maximum cruising speed of 338km/h and a range of 1400km.

- NZPA

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