A New Zealand Airforce Orion helped in a dramatic rescue of two people whose plane went down in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii yesterday.

The twin-engine aircraft, which had two people on board, was travelling from Maui to Kona yesterday afternoon when the pilot reported an emergency and the plane disappeared from radar.

The RNZAF Orion, which had been taking part in a maritime warfare training exercise at the time, was diverted to assist United States Coast Guard and Navy units in the search.

After some 22 hours in the water, the pair were spotted and winched to safety by a US Coastguard helicopter.

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They had lifejackets on and were attempting to swim to shore.

RNZAF Wing Commander Daniel Hunt said it was a great result and the Orion crew were delighted they had been able to help their US colleagues with the search.

"We spend a good number of flying hours each year on such missions and sometimes we don't get the result that we and those at home hoping for good news would like," he said.

"The successful rescue of these two people is fantastic."

The Orion will resume its training activities tomorrow, operating from its US base at Kaneohe Bay.