Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Helicopter instructor praised for quick actions

The Guimbal Cabri helicopter crashed in a paddock north of the Waimakariri River near Christchurch yesterday. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Guimbal Cabri helicopter crashed in a paddock north of the Waimakariri River near Christchurch yesterday. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The instructor in yesterday's helicopter training crash has been praised for his quick actions in averting a double fatality.

The Guimbal Cabri helicopter with two people aboard came down in an open field used as a major low-flying training area at the south end of Two Chain Rd, near the Waimakariri River in Canterbury, around 4.20pm.

The pair had been practising low-flying manoeuvres when the two-seater aircraft "hit the ground heavily," police said.

The small, white chopper suffered damage to its left side, wrecking the left skid. Its rotors still appeared functional.

The qualified pilot, who was undertaking instructor training, suffered moderate spinal injuries, police said.

He was flown to hospital by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and was discharged this morning, a hospital spokeswoman confirmed.

The second person aboard, an instructor, suffered only minor injuries and remained at the scene yesterday until his wife came and picked him up, said the local landowner, Wanaka Helicopters' pilot and instructor Simon Spencer-Bower QSM.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has spoken to the pilot and understands that the student pilot had initiated a manoeuvre and was "in difficulty when the instructor took over".

"This quick action likely prevented a more serious accident," a CAA spokesman said.

The CAA is having the wreckage removed to a secure lock-up location today and will then determine what type of investigation to undertake.

"The CAA will be looking to see if there may have been any mechanical or other possible cause of the accident," the spokesman said.

A local helicopter pilot last night said the helicopter was owned by Pacific Helicopter Training.

A spokesman for the company said he couldn't talk about the crash, citing CAA laws.

Mr Spencer-Bower, who's racked up thousands of hours' flying time himself, believed it was a minor incident.

"These things (Guimbal Cabri) are pretty good these days," the 65-year-old said at the scene - a field which forms part of the sprawling estate which has been in his family's hands for decades.

He lets all helicopter and small fixed winged aircraft training operators based at Christchurch Airport - a short flight south over the Waimakariri River - use his property for low-flying, under 500-feet training.

"The nice thing about New Zealand is that you can perform these manoeuvres - practising approaches to land and take off," he said.

Asked if the pilots had been lucky to escape more serious injuries, he said: "People get over-excited because it's a helicopter crash. If it was a car crash, and there's a logical reason for it, no one would be bothered."

Police and ambulance services also attended the crash, with a large cordon initially surrounding the crash scene which borders the 7000-acre Eyrewell Forest.

Weather conditions at the time of the crash were clear and calm.

- APNZ

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