A 65-year-old male pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in Otaika Valley yesterday after the engine of his home-built microlight plane failed.

St John Ambulance received a call at 11am from a member of the public after the pilot landed his aircraft near Bellevue Way on a private airstrip. He was later taken to Whangārei Hospital with moderate injuries on Saturday.

Rusty Russell, captain of the Whangārei Flying Club, saw the accident unfold as he was airborne close to the pilot at the time.

Russell said an engine failure had forced the pilot, who was also a member of the Whangārei Flying Club, to make an emergency landing on the private airstrip because he knew he wouldn't make it back to Whangārei Airport.

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Russell would not name the pilot.

"The engine failed, and so he was forced to land. We practise these sort of situations all the time, and he did a remarkable job," Russell said.

"When you're flying you're always on the lookout for places where you can land for cases like this. He knew there was a private strip in Otaika, and he did the right thing by not trying to get back to the airport."

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Russell described the club member as a "very mechanical and methodical" pilot who didn't take any risks.

"He is an aircraft engineer, and he is the one who keeps all our planes airborne in the club. He is very good at what he does, and he is well respected within the community."

The light plane is a home-built Sonic with a Volkswagen engine, and after some repairs it will be airworthy again. The plane was retrieved today.

Russell said when he noticed his fellow club member was in trouble,there was little he could do but let him concentrate on his task of landing the plane.

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Once the pilot had touched on the ground, Russell landed next to him to assist and make contact with nearby residents to ask for help.

He said the response from emergency services, including two ambulances from St John, Fire and Emergency services and police, "went down to the clockwork".

Russell said he believed the pilot had moderate injuries to the spine but was otherwise well and "very chatty".