Forced landing takes Red Checkers out of show

By Genevieve Helliwell

One of the leading aerial displays scheduled for the Tauranga City Air Show this weekend will not go ahead after a Defence Force aerobatics plane made a forced landing yesterday afternoon.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force CT-4E Air Trainer, part of the Red Checkers aerobatic display, was en route to Tauranga when it suffered engine problems and was forced to land about 4.20pm.

A Defence spokesperson confirmed the lead Air Trainer was flying from Ohakea Air Base in the Manawatu when it experienced mechanical trouble mid-flight. The pilot, the only person on board, decided to make a forced landing and brought the aircraft down on hilly ground, about 12km south of Rangipo, near Waiouru.

The Air Trainer overturned and was "moderately damaged" but the pilot was uninjured.

Tauranga City Airshow director Andrew Gormlie said it was a shame not to have the Red Checkers involved but it was more important that the pilot was okay: "These things happen ... the rest of the team have to stop with him

"They won't have a display without the whole crew and if there was a failure then the engineers will want to do some sort of checks on the other planes before they get going again. And that won't happen until the engineers have spent some time with the landed plane but that's normal procedure."

One of the Red Checkers Air Trainers arrived in Tauranga yesterday. Mr Gormlie believed the others had landed in Taupo. They had all come from Ohakea.

He said it was possible the CT-4E in Tauranga would be part of the static display, but doubted the public could touch it. Until it had been checked by engineers, the plane had to stay where it was.

Another aerial display will fill the hole in the programme left by the Red Checkers. About 80 planes will take to the air, with 30 display aircraft and about 300 Sport Aircraft Association (SAA) planes remaining on the field.

The weekend will also feature a Hawker Hunter jet, which Mr Gormlie said was "the star of the show" as well as two Spitfires and two P40 Kittyhawks.

The Air Force is investigating yesterday's incident.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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