Two people walked away almost uninjured from a light plane which upended in a Sunday afternoon wind gust at Hawke's Bay Airport while the aircraft was in Napier for the Art Deco Festival.

Police, fire and ambulance services were called to the airport at midday, with the airport's own rescue services already alongside the aircraft, one of two World War II Boeing Stearman trainer aircraft.

The biplane was flipped on its back on one of the airport's grass runways.

Napier's Art Deco festival was being held this weekend and light planes were running demonstration flights, photographer Mike Gannaway said. He was in a group of spectators watching the planes coming in to land when the plane flipped.

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A "freak gust of wind" appeared to catch the Boeing Stearman's wing, flipping the plane over as it came in to land at Napier Airport, a photographer says. Photo / Mike Gannaway

"[The pilot] was looking pretty much in control, dropping over the fence as they do to land on the grass runway.

"He was doing a beautiful job, nicely coming in for landing. It looks like he went to touch down and one wing went downwards, he tried to correct and it went the other way and the whole plane flipped over."

A biplane crashed and ended up on its roof at Napier Airport around midday - but those on board only suffered minor injuries. Photo / Ian Cooper
A biplane crashed and ended up on its roof at Napier Airport around midday - but those on board only suffered minor injuries. Photo / Ian Cooper

The small crowd was "quite astonished", he said. "It was windy but not windy-windy. It must have been a freak gust of wind that caught it from the side."

The pair onboard had released their seatbelts and "slithered from the plane", he said.

The plane, named Wichita Girl, was lightweight which probably made it easy to flip - but also meant less damage, he said.

"It was probably quite terrifying to be in it but once it stopped it was pretty much over."

Emergency services had arrived within minutes, he said.

A St John spokeswoman said the two people on board suffered minor injuries but did not need transporting to hospital.

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Fire and Emergency NZ central shift manager Murray Dunbar said the fire service had also attended but had left the airport by 12.20pm.

"The two people on board both walked away uninjured," Dunbar said. There was no fire and the pair did not need to be freed from the plane.

The fire service rushed to the airport after being called at midday but was not required. Photo / Ian Cooper
The fire service rushed to the airport after being called at midday but was not required. Photo / Ian Cooper

At least one of the Stearman aircraft was privately owned and one was available for visitor rides, but it was not clear whether either of the two aboard had been a member of the public.

Airport authorities and Civil Aviation staff were investigating the incident which was understood to have happened moments after the light aircraft touched down, possibly tipped by a gust.

MetService said south-southwest winds had been mainly up to the high-20s knots, with a peak gust of 31 knots later in the afternoon, about 2pm.