A group of English tourists watched as a float plane carrying a couple from their tour group struggled as it tried to take off forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing on Lake Rotorua yesterday.
The 1977 Cessna 206 was heading to White Island, 49km from Whakatane, when it suffered engine failure at an altitude of 4.5m.
A husband and wife were pulled out of the aircraft by the young female pilot. Their lifejackets were inflated as they waited on the float structure of the small aircraft.
The Kawarau Jet, which operates next to the plane's Volcanic Air Safaris' base on Rotorua's lakefront in the CBD, rescued the passengers from the aircraft about 500m off Sulphur Point towards the southeastern end of the lake within eight minutes of the incident.
Kawarau owner Ross Kelly said he was loading a group of his own passengers on his jet when the hard landing happened.
"One of them saw it and said 'is that plane supposed to land like that?' And I looked over and saw it bobbing up and down. Then Phill from Volcanic Air came running over and we went to get them."
The couple were shaken but unhurt and recovered with a cup of tea in the Air Safaris' offices.
Volcanic Air director Phill Barclay said more damage was caused when the plane was rocked by the wake of a boat with people onboard taking photos.
The Kawarau Jet towed the plane across the lake to Rotorua Airport where it will be repaired.
The Civil Aviation Authority had been notified and the pilot would prepare a report, Mr Barclay said.
The $300,000 plane was brought over from the United States in the 1980s and has been operating on the Rotorua lakefront since then.