Two men cut from plane

By Patrick OSullivan

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A pilot and his passenger had to be cut from their plane by emergency services after they crashed when landing on the pilot's private runway.

Robin Langslow was landing a Cresco top-dressing plane on his Otane farm when he crashed about 6am yesterday.

Waipukurau deputy chief fire officer Owen Spotswood said when he arrived at the scene of yesterday's plane crash both men were conscious but trapped in the cockpit.

When Hawke's Bay Today went to print last night, Mr Langslow was in intensive care at Hawke's Bay Hospital, as was his passenger, who was in a critical condition.

"The cockpit and engine facility were very badly damaged and they were trapped by their feet and ankles," Mr Spotswood said. "It was a not a typical extrication because of the high-tensile steel frame of the plane - it was very difficult to cut so it took us an hour to extract the persons from the plane.

"But we did it successfully - their main injuries were knees and ankles and were very serious."

He said they were both conscious "but the worse for wear".

"To free the motor and dash was quite difficult. There is not a lot of room in the plane and when it was concertinaed there was even less, so it was quite difficult to do without hurting the patients. It took us an hour, which to us is a long time, but that's the way it had to be."

Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter chief pilot Charlie Beetham said the Cresco plane was removed from around the men and a strop tied to a tractor, to secure the plane if it shifted once the engine was removed.

He said he knew the pilot, "which was a bit of a shock".

"When they are fellow aviators it makes it a bit more personal. He is a very well-known and respected pilot."

Both men, who are believed to be in their 60s, suffered suspected fractures to their limbs and "other injuries", St John spokesman Brendon Hutchinson said.

They were treated in the plane and lifted straight into the helicopter.

Why the men were landing on Mr Langslow's farm at the start of the day, was unknown.

An industry commentator said it was possible they were returning from a job that had to be abandoned due to weather conditions.

There was fog in some parts of the district at the time of the accident.

A CAA spokesman said prevailing weather conditions "and the contributing factors of the accident sequence" would be investigated.

"It is difficult to give an accurate time frame about when the investigation will be completed as there are so many variables in an aviation accident investigation," he said.

"Often very small fragments from the wreckage have to be sent away for forensic examination or component parts sent to the manufacturer to check. In some cases we need to have specialist aviation engineers strip down aircraft engines to try and find a possible cause of the accident.

"It could be up to 12 months before a final report is available."

He said the co-operation of Waipukurau police had been "outstanding".

"We have already received detailed photographs taken by police at the accident scene."

Aerospread Ltd owns the downed topdressing aircraft.

Managing director Bruce Peterson said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was investigating the accident.

"Our primary concern is with our injured staff who are listed in critical and serious conditions in intensive care," he said.

"We have spent time with the families at Hawke's Bay Hospital and we ask media to respect their wish for privacy at this difficult time.

"We would like to thank emergency services and the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter for their outstanding response to this accident and hospital staff for their emergency care."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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