More detail has emerged of the circumstances around Saturday's crash of a Yak 3 aircraft at the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

Previous media reports have suggested the 1940s-era Soviet aircraft, piloted by Arthur Dovey, of Wanaka, was landing on the grass runway at Wanaka Airport when it hit a cherry picker.

However, aviation sources with a better view of the crash say that is incorrect.

The heavily damaged Yak 3 is moved to a hangar at Wanaka Airport. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
The heavily damaged Yak 3 is moved to a hangar at Wanaka Airport. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

The Otago Daily Times has been told the crash happened on the wide strip of ground between the sealed runway and the grass runway - an area of "ungroomed" land obvious from the air but not from the spectator stands at the show.

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It has a white cross in the middle indicating to pilots not to land there.

The sources did not want to be identified but said two eight-tonne cherry pickers were more than 30m from either runway and were put on the strip of ground in advance of the show because they would have been too slow-moving to get into position once the show began.

They were to be used for a new pyrotechnic display.

On the day of the crash, they were in the same position they were in at a rehearsal the previous day.

Five people working on the display were nearby and about to move to the cherry pickers when the crash happened.

Dovey had been invited to open the show after bad weather prevented a United States Air Force F-16 fighter jet being able to do that.

The cherry picker into which Arthur Dovey's Yak 3 plane crashed on Saturday. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
The cherry picker into which Arthur Dovey's Yak 3 plane crashed on Saturday. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

The show was to be Dovey's last.

He has declined to discuss the crash with the media.

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However, sources have told the ODT, that following his display, Dovey, in his three-tonne World War 2 fighter was to land on the grass runway.

Yaks are more easily controlled when landing on grass than on a sealed runway.

However, he chose to land between the runways.

Prior to the show, pilots attended a briefing where, it is claimed, their attention was not drawn to the presence of the cherry pickers.

A source told the ODT as Dovey approached the airfield, it would have been clear to airshow organisers he was not about to land on the grass runway.

He could have been told to "go around", but that did not happen.

Part of the Yak 3 Russian fighter plane's wing was torn off when it clipped a cherry picker. Photo / Liam Parker
Part of the Yak 3 Russian fighter plane's wing was torn off when it clipped a cherry picker. Photo / Liam Parker

While Airways provides the show with communications equipment, adviser Emma Lee said yesterday the organisation did not provide air traffic control services at airshows.

"Due to their nature, airshows like this are not managed by air traffic control.

"The airshow is overseen by the airshow director."

Dovey's landing approach was considered by an experienced pilot to be "very fast", so fast in fact it would normally have led to the pilot choosing to "go around".

Because of the rough ground, the plane was also bouncing.

The Yak is a "tail dragger" and once in its landing position, the pilot has no forward vision.

One wing was ripped off the Yak where it connects to the fuselage, the fuselage itself was badly damaged, and the propeller hit the ground, causing major damage to the engine.

Both cherry pickers were badly damaged.

The Civil Aviation Authority is carrying out a safety investigation into the incident and a spokeswoman said it was likely the authority's health and safety unit would also investigate.

Show general manager Ed Taylor declined to comment yesterday on the crash except to repeat show organisers were carrying out their own internal investigation.

He could not say when that would be completed.