The son of a couple whose light plane went missing yesterday says the family are ecstatic the pair were found safe and well.

Alan and Anne Warner of Waitara, northeast of New Plymouth, went missing after Mr Warner, 58, had managed to put the small aircraft down in thick bush near Whangamomona after reporting bad weather last night.

The pair were spotted close to their upturned Zenith Zodiac CH 601-XL aircraft this morning.

A search and rescue helicopter crew spotted the pair some 19 hours after their last radio communication.

Advertisement

Their son Adam Warner, 26, said this afternoon he was relieved but somehow unsurprised his parents survived largely intact.

"He's pretty tough, a hard sort of guy," he said of his father at a press conference at the hospital this afternoon.

"He's an adventurous sort of man."

A couple whose light plane went missing yesterday have been found alive by rescuers in Taranaki. Alan and Anne Warner, of Waitara, were spotted walking in the search area by a rescue helicopter crew. The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said they were winched on board the helicopter and were now en route to Taranaki Base Hospital. Source: Jim Tucker

Sitting in front of his family, including the Warners' two other sons and Anne's parents, Colleen and Doug Robson of Opunake, Adam said his parents were in shock, but doing well.

They were understandably "a bit shook up". He was unsure of their condition, but thought there were no serious injuries and they were being kept in hospital for 24 hours' observation.

He said the crash appeared to be the result of the Waitara couple getting weathered-in on their flight home to Taranaki from a holiday at the family bach at Whitianga.

He said his father got his pilot's licence about two and half years ago to fulfil a lifetime dream, after suffering a health scare. He bought the plane a couple of years ago and had 120 hours of solo experience.

Adam and the family were surprised to hear that the plane came to rest upside down in the bush, which was how it was described by the rescue helicopter crew who winched the couple out mid-morning today.

A Zenith 601XL aircraft, with a man and a woman on board is missing. Photo / blogspotbigsky.blogspot.co.nz
A Zenith 601XL aircraft, with a man and a woman on board is missing. Photo / blogspotbigsky.blogspot.co.nz

A pipeline construction supervisor who works in his father's engineering business in the oil and gas industry, Adam said the family was finding everything a bit surreal.

"You see it on the news, but you don't ever think it will happen to you."

The family was ecstatic at the outcome, and very grateful to the various rescue personnel involved in getting parents out.

Adam said he was involved in the search yesterday, accompanying well-known Taranaki chopper pilot Alan Beck who flow over the search area.

Earlier, son Ryan Warner said the family was relieved his parents had come through the ordeal.

The Warners failed to reach their destination after reporting bad weather during their afternoon flight to Stratford yesterday.

Their last radio communication was at 4pm, when they were about 40km northeast of Whangamomona in Taranaki, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said.

Half an hour earlier they had reported poor weather conditions, and indicated they were moving inland.

Search and rescue efforts were launched about 5.30pm and continued into the early hours of this morning, but were hampered by poor weather and poor visibility. Teams hit the skies again at first light.

The couple had a remarkable escape from serious injury, suffering moderate chest and back injuries in the crash.

They were winched to safety by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter, which airlifted them to Taranaki Base Hospital helicopter in an 18-minute flight from the crash scene.

Pilot Mike Parker said the plane was upside down in steep bush country when the crew first spotted it this morning.

Anne and Alan Warner failed to reach their destination after reporting bad weather en route to Stratford from Whitianga yesterday. Photo / Facebook
Anne and Alan Warner failed to reach their destination after reporting bad weather en route to Stratford from Whitianga yesterday. Photo / Facebook

It was intact, and they saw somebody walking around beside it. A second person appeared from beneath the plane soon after the helicopter arrived overhead, Mr Parker said.

Hovering about 100m above the downed aircraft, the crew lowered medic Roger Bloom to the site. Crewman Ben Wallbank winched up Mrs Warner first and they flew her to a nearby farmhouse.

She was cold after her night in the bush and the farmhouse had a warm fire going, which was ideal, Mr Parker said.

The couple were in a "surprisingly good shape considering what they've been through", he said.

Mr and Mrs Warner were conscious and in stable conditions, a spokeswoman for Taranaki Base Hospital said.

Anne Warner and Alan Warner of Waitara, Taranaki. Photo / Facebook
Anne Warner and Alan Warner of Waitara, Taranaki. Photo / Facebook

Mrs Warner had moderate chest injuries, while her husband had moderate back injuries, she said.

Stratford Aero Club president Nick Furmage said it was a fantastic result the couple had been found alive and well, and the club was really pleased.

The club had received amazing support from aero clubs around the country for which it was thankful, he said.

The plane wreckage was located this morning, around 8km west of Whangamomona by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter, RCCNZ mission coordinator Chris Henshaw said.

"Everyone involved in the search is obviously delighted with the outcome," he said.

"It has been an excellent effort in difficult terrain and weather conditions.

"It has been an outstanding effort from Taranaki Rescue Helicopter, the Defence Force, the Phillips Search and Rescue Trust aircraft from Hamilton, and the NZ Police."

Taranaki Helicopter Trust rescue helicopter crewman Ben Wallbank (left) and pilot Mike Parker. Photo / Jim Tucker
Taranaki Helicopter Trust rescue helicopter crewman Ben Wallbank (left) and pilot Mike Parker. Photo / Jim Tucker

Mr and Mrs Warner own construction and welding company Warner Construction Ltd, which operates out of a large workshop in an industrial area of Waitara, northeast of New Plymouth. It was established in 1985.

The couple are grandparents who live in Waitara but also own a beachside bach in Whitianga.

They had recently joined the Mercury Bay Aero Club, from which they took off from around 2.30pm yesterday.

Club spokesman Tony Turner said their safe recovery was "what we all hoped for".
"Great to hear," he said.

- Additional reporting: Ilona Hanne of the Stratford Press

Adam Warner (26) son of the couple and his family at a press conference. Photo / Jim Tucker
Adam Warner (26) son of the couple and his family at a press conference. Photo / Jim Tucker