Stiff drink after gyrocopter crash

By Amy McGillivray

1 comment

A quiet drink was on the cards last night for two men who narrowly escaped serious injury after the gyrocopter they were in crashed into the Tauranga Harbour.

Pilot David Church and a friend, both in their 60s, walked away with only minor injuries after the gyrocopter lost power at 150 metres, shortly after take-off from Tauranga Airport.

Mr Church said he thought he could make it back to the runway, but instead he had to make an emergency landing about 50m offshore.

He and his passenger then freed themselves from the aircraft, which came to rest in waist-deep water, and walked 200m back to the end of the runway.

Mr Church said he made "a fundamental error'' in one of his calculations but he would not go into details.

"I just made a little mistake and didn't have enough airspeed, and I made an emergency landing which I handled quite well,'' he said.

"I landed flat. It was a copybook [emergency] landing.''

The advantage of a gyrocopter was the ability to sort it out after making a mistake.

"If I'd have been in a fixed wing [aircraft] it might have been a bit different, because they stall,'' he said.

Mr Church said it was his more than 250 hours' flight experience that enabled him to safely perform the crash landing.

"I was very happy with the way I landed when it came to doing the emergency landing. We walked away, both uninjured. Well, semi-injured.''

St John ambulance officers gave Mr Church the all-clear at the scene and his friend was taken to hospital as a precaution.

"I think he might have bitten his tongue. He'll be out in a minute and I hope he's coming home to have a drink with me,'' Mr Church said.

He was unscathed.

"The biggest thing that's hurt is my pride. Other than that, I'm 100 per cent.''

It was the first time he had taken his friend out in the gyrocopter, but he had taken others out before.

Mr Church had owned the Xenon gyrocopter for about three and a half years.

The gyrocopter had sustained damage to a rotor and the motor probably needed reconditioning, but it would be able to fly again, Mr Church said.

Police, the fire service and St John ambulance staff were alerted to the crash landing about 1.30pm yesterday.

Acting Senior Sergeant Steve Hindmarsh of Tauranga said the men were very lucky to have survived.

"I guess getting out of these machines once they hit the water and go under is quite difficult, so they were lucky,'' Mr Hindmarsh said.

Mount Maunganui Fire Brigade Station Officer Roger Pickett said he believed the fully enclosed gyrocopter "started climbing, banked to the left and just went down''.

It was hoisted from the water by a helicopter late yesterday afternoon, he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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