Two people are dead after their light planes crashed into each other then caught fire as one made its final approach into Hood Aerodrome near Masterton today.
An eyewitness has described the moment the planes collided, with a loud bang followed by debris "swirling down" out of the sky.
Michael O'Donnell of the Wairarapa Aero Club confirmed that one of their members had been killed in a mid-air collision this morning with what is reported to have been an aircraft from Skydive Wellington.
"Clearly the club is in shock. We're working with authorities," O'Donnell said. "It's not something we would expect in this weather." Weather conditions are fine in Masterton, with clear skies and sun shining.
Newshub reported that Skydive Wellington, which operates from Hood Aerodrome, had confirmed one of its planes was involved in the crash.
It is understood that at the time of the collision, the skydiving plane was returning to the aerodrome after skydivers jumped.
Police have confirmed that two people died in the crash. Emergency services are expected to remain at the scene of the accident for some time.
A Fire and Emergency NZ spokesman said they were called at 11.13am after two light aircraft collided.
"They were on the ground on fire. We responded with crews from Masterton, Carterton, Greytown and Palmerston North.
"The fire has been extinguished and we are now assisting police operations."
The planes collided to the south of Hood Aerodrome on the southern side of the Waingawa River. A Wairarapa Aero Club member said the two aircraft were on their final approach to Hood Aerodrome at the time.
The road is cordoned where Hughes Line meets Cornwall Road.
An eyewitness who lives nearby told the Wairarapa Times-Age he saw the two planes collide with each other in the air.
Hood Aerodrome, owned and operated by Masterton District Council, is supporting police and emergency services.
"We have a close-knit community at Hood Aerodrome and the incident has understandably rocked that community," Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said.
The Civil Aviation Authority would send a team on Monday to investigate the cause of the crash, CAA spokesman Blake Crayton-Brown said.
He understood the Transport Accident Investigation Commission would also be investigating.
The commission looks at what lessons can be learned from accidents - rather than who is to blame. TAIC spokesman Simon Pleasants said the commission was aware of the accident and was seeking more information before a decision would be on any investigation.
Second fatal plane crash in two days
The incident comes two days after a man died following a light plane crash near the north end of Coromandel Forest Park.
Police this afternoon named the pilot who was killed as 78-year-old James Albert Evans of Whitianga.
In that incident the two-seater aircraft took off from Whitianga Airport in the Coromandel on Friday morning bound for Ardmore Airport near Manurewa in Auckland.
But bad weather conditions in Manurewa forced Evans 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 today 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."
Evans was a member of Mercury Bay Aero Club.