Two people have escaped uninjured after a vintage Air Force plane landed on its belly in a paddock outside RNZAF Base Ōhakea.

The Defence Force confirmed that the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Harvard had been forced to perform a "forced landing" in a farm paddock short of the runway, after suffering engine issues.

"The two RNZAF personnel on-board evacuated the aircraft with no injuries. Air Force Rescue Fire responders and local emergency services responded to the scene.

"The North American Harvard 1015 is a historic World War II aircraft maintained and flown by RNZAF for ceremonial and display purposes."

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The RNZAF's 'grand old lady' - the North American Harvard NZ1015 and Flight Lieutenant Stuart Anderson. Photo / NZDF
The RNZAF's 'grand old lady' - the North American Harvard NZ1015 and Flight Lieutenant Stuart Anderson. Photo / NZDF

The RNZAF's Harvard NZ1015 has been described as the Air Force's "grand old lady".

The aircraft underwent an extensive three-and-a-half-year renovation that was completed last year. Renovation work included restoring and repainting it to its original 1942 state, including war-time camouflaging.

"Flight Lieutenant Stuart Anderson has led the restoration that has utilised the skills of many dedicated RNZAF personnel and civilian contractors at RNZAF Base Ōhakea. It has been a challenging, but incredibly rewarding process," NZDF said last year.

"It took three-and-a-half years to take the aircraft apart and make sure it met the civilian specifications. The decision to go with the camouflage scheme is significant in that it was important for us to pay homage to the wartime history of the aircraft," Anderson said then.

A staff member at Viv's Kitchen to the east of the airfield in Sanson said he saw a fire truck "flying past" his shop about 20 minutes earlier, but did not hear the crash nor could he see smoke.

Staff at Bulls Motel & Holiday Park and The Woolshed cafe to the north and southeast of the airfield had also seen fire engines and heard sirens.

A Fire and Emergency spokeswoman confirmed the aircraft had performed a "belly landing" in a paddock outside the RNZAF Ōhakea base.

Both occupants had got out of the plane safely.

Ōhakea is an operational base of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, located near Bulls, 25km northwest of Palmerston North.