Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yaks are safe aircraft - Red Stars leader

Monday's fatal Yakovlev-52 crash in Feilding was a one-off incident and does not reflect the safety of the aircraft model, says a New Plymouth aerobatics expert.

Palmerston North doctor Ralph Saxe and former Palmerston North chiropractor Brett Ireland died when Dr Saxe's Yakovlev-52 crashed into a field, near a children's playground, in Feilding's Timona Park on Monday morning.

Dr Saxe, 51, was a seasoned pilot with decades of experience and it is believed he may have aimed for the park to avoid ground casualties once he realised he was in trouble.

New Plymouth aerobatics pilot Brett Emeny, who has 37 years flying experience, said there are only 15 Yaks in New Zealand and four of those are in Taranaki.

The four are the Red Stars aerobatics team and have a high profile in the region often seen performing elaborate aerobatic manoeuvres out to sea.

Red Stars team leader Mr Emeny, who has flown Yaks for about 15 years, said Dr Saxe had owned his Yak for about 12 months.

Mr Emeny had test flown the plane which crashed on Monday shortly before Mr Saxe purchased it.

"It's a lovely aeroplane," Mr Emeny said.

Original Yaks were Russian-built but Mr Saxe's was made in the United States and, at less than 10-years-old, was the newest Yak in New Zealand, he said.

Russian-built Yaks had nose wheels while those built in the US had tail wheels, he said.

Yaks had been in New Zealand for more than 20 years and this was the first major incident, he said. "It's a bit of a mystery to us as to what's happened there," Mr Emeny said.

The Red Stars were out training on Monday night and last night in preparation for this weekend's Tauranga Air Show and Warbirds Over Wanaka during Easter weekend.

Mr Saxe flew Yaks privately and was not part of the Red Stars team.

Those in the Red Stars were experienced pilots with hundreds of hours of flying Yaks under their belts, he said.

"It's all very disciplined and planned.

"Formation flying is probably the most specialised flying that you could do," he said.

Meanwhile, police and the CAA completed a detailed scene examination yesterday and will transport the wreck to Wellington today for further analysis.

CAA lead investigator Al Moselen said a full investigation could take up to a year, but the authority was likely to have preliminary results within a month.

Dr Ireland was a founding member of the New Zealand College of Chiropractic.
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He moved his wife Janine and three children from Manawatu to the Gold Coast in 2002 after 18 years working as a chiropractor in New Zealand.

According to the Gold Coast Chiropractic Centre website, Dr Ireland bought the Southport-based centre and settled in Australia permanently.

Dr Ireland's family was in the news over a decade ago. According to reports, his son Ethan was born deaf and blind in 1999 but developed full sight and hearing out of the blue eight months later. Doctors could not explain the shock development.

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