A Coromandel Peninsula aero club is devastated after police confirmed one of its members has died in a light plane crash.
The as-yet unnamed pilot of the two-seater aircraft took off from Whitianga Airport in the Coromandel yesterday morning bound for Ardmore Airport near Manurewa in Auckland.
But bad weather conditions in Manurewa forced the pilot to turn around and head back to the Coromandel.
The plane then disappeared from satellite and radar over Coromandel Forest Park in rugged bushland not far from Coromandel town and was reported missing to rescue teams at Maritime NZ at 4.25pm yesterday, spokeswoman Stephanie Morison said.
Rescue teams were unable to search from the air because of bad weather yesterday evening.
Police had been working with Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, New Zealand's national search and rescue organisation, and LandSAR to find the plane since last night.
It was spotted at about 10am by ground search teams near the north end of Coromandel Forest Park, police said.
"The sole occupant of the plane was found deceased," police said.
"The death will be referred to the coroner.
"The Civil Aviation Authority will investigate the crash."
The pilot, who has not yet been formally identified by police, was a member of Mercury Bay Aero Club.
Bill Beard, president of the aero club and Whitianga-based airfield which dates back to 1965, has been working with the police and the pilot's family.
"It's pretty disturbing to us all," he said.
"We really can't add much more than what we've already advised the authorities."
It's not yet clear what has caused the crash.
"The weather over here in the hills is still not good and we've not had any reports [of what happened] yet," Beard said.
"We'll bounce back. With aviation accidents, they are a trauma and unfortunately there is always a good reason for them. The CAA will conduct their investigation and I am sure everything will come out in the long run."