The hang glider pilot who crashed and died at an Auckland west coast beach is thought to have been on a training flight.

The New Zealand Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association is investigating yesterday afternoon's crash at Karioitahi, southwest of Pukekohe, for the Civil Aviation Authority.

Association chief executive Evan Lamberton told the Herald this morning, "The guy was under tow, which suggests it was a training flight."

He did not know whether it was a commercial or a private flight.

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Towing a glider with a vehicle on the beach was a common way to learn the sport. The tow rope could be released at the vehicle and at the glider.

Karioitahi Beach was Auckland's main training area for hang gliding and paragliding, Lamberton said.

The association's investigation could take several weeks and would involve studying the wreckage of the crashed hang glider, which had been seized by the police, and interviewing witnesses.