A light plane reported missing after departing from Foxton's Foxpine Airfield on Sunday was found on Monday with the bodies of two people inside.
The wreckage was found in the northern Tararua Ranges around on Monday morning and police confirmed the two men in the aircraft were dead.
The plane took off on a training flight around 2.15pm and was reported missing at 8pm on Sunday night, a Maritime NZ spokesperson said.
The private flight was heading to Paraparaumu and the two victims are understood to be from the Kāpiti Coast. Foxpine Airfield operator Keven Roberts said they appeared to be heading towards Masterton for training.
Roberts said he had been involved in the search last night but they had been "searching in the wrong place".
He said the two men in the plane were an instructor and a student, believed to be an older man.
Roberts said the instructor, who was from Kāpiti, had been carrying out flight training from Foxpine for the last six months and was a highly experienced and respected pilot.
"He was very cautious," he said. "If anything was going wrong he would have taken control immediately."
Roberts said he didn't believe the tragedy was likely to have been caused by pilot error and was more likely to have been due to a malfunction of some kind, or the rapidly changing environment of the Tararuas.
The Maritime NZ spokesperson said the plane was a Tecnum, understood to be an "ultralight" model that is actually classified as a microlight, although it was actually a higher powered light plane.
The aircraft's last known signal had been sent from "quite high up" on the east side of the Tararuas near Eketāhuna, the spokesperson said.
Police and the fire brigade had been working with RCCNZ and LandSAR to locate the plane on Sunday evening, with a commercial helicopter used to try and access the Tararuas, which it was unable to do.
On Monday morning an Airforce NH-90 helicopter was deployed from Ōhakea airbase and a four-person search and rescue team was able to be flown into the mountains, while a second, land-based team walked in from Putara Rd near Eketāhuna. The wreckage was discovered around 7.30am.
A scene examination was being carried out on Monday and the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed it would be investigating, police said in a statement.
"Police's thoughts are with the families of the two men involved at this tragic time."
It is unknown whether the deceased were affiliated to a local training club.