Sunday, January 19, 2014

Schleicher ASW 20L, ZK-GDF: Drury Hills, south of Auckland - New Zealand

'It went into a spiral descent' - pilot dies as stricken glider smashes into ground. 

When young pilot Adam Reid saw the glider go into a spiral, he knew disaster was imminent. Seconds later, the 19-year-old and his mate, Daniel Hunter, were racing through paddocks to the aircraft after it slammed into a tree. 

 The pilot was killed instantly in the crash just after 4pm at Drury, south of Auckland.

It was the second glider-related death in four hours, after a light towplane crashed in Canterbury, killing the pilot.

The Auckland tragedy unfolded after the glider was towed aloft just after 2pm from the Auckland Gliding Club's airfield on Appleby Rd, Drury.

Mr Reid was at a barbecue at Mr Hunter's house, near the club, when they saw the glider. "The right wing came over the left wing and it went into a spiral descent," said Mr Reid.

"As soon as I saw the wing go over I thought 'that's not supposed to happen'. It was flying pretty low ... I saw the glider spiral straight down to the ground."

Mr Reid, who has a private pilot's license and is working towards his commercial license, said that when he first saw the glider it was flying normally, but "within five seconds" it was in strife.

Neighbour Ian Pearson was watching cricket on TV.

"I heard an almighty bang, a big bang, a hell of a bang," he said.

The teenagers, who were swimming with their mates, jumped out of the pool and sprinted to the crash site.

"It was still, there was no movement," said Mr Reid.

Mr Hunter said the glider's wings were stripped off and stuck in the tree. They then spotted the fuselage in a dry pond nearby.

"I had to go and have a look and see if he (the pilot) was breathing, but there was nothing," Mr Hunter said. "He was gone."

The teenagers said members of the gliding club gathered at the crash site. One said the victim was a "reasonably experienced pilot".

Auckland Gliding Club spokesman David Hirst said the Civil Aviation Authority and police were investigating the crash, "and unfortunately I am under strict instructions not to reveal any further information".

Inspector Willie Taylor said the pilot was a co-owner of the glider.

He had died on impact as a result of "significant trauma".

The crash shook Mr Reid. "I'm meant to be flying (today), but I might have to take a day off," he said.

The Canterbury accident happened in Springfield, about 63km northwest of Christchurch, and killed Christchurch father Martin Lowen, 55.

He was the sole occupant of a PA-28-236 Dakota aircraft which launched a glider with two occupants just after midday.

Soon after, the plane crashed and burst into flames.


Witnesses and friends Daniel Hunter (left) and Adam Reid.
 Photo / Natalie Slade 

 The Schleicher ASW 20L (ZK-GDF)  which crashed on a rural property in Drury. 
Photo / Natalie Slade