Drone likely cause in Waihi plane crash

Pilot Rod Vaughan was left with a head injury after he says a drone crashed into his plane while flying in Waihi.

Hanging upside down in a Waihi cornfield with blood in his eyes pilot Rod Vaughan did not have time to wonder what his aircraft had hit before crash landing.

Now his wounds are healing he is certain it was a drone.

If he is correct it will be the first time a drone has taken down an aircraft in New Zealand, but there have been many reported near-misses.

The light plane crashed upside down in a cornfield in Waihi on Wednesday. Photo: MATT SHAND/STUFF.

Recently a drone came within five metres of an incoming 777-200 plane approaching Auckland putting 278 passengers at risk. 

Vaughan, a former investigative journalist who was once punched by Sir Bob Jones, was out enjoying a flight in a Aeroprakt Foxbat with his son on Wednesday afternoon.

Shortly after landing in the bumpy paddock the aircraft flipped 180 degrees.

As they were taking in the sights of the local gold mine, disaster struck. 

"Without any warning a tornado of air was just racing inside the cockpit," he says. 

The force of the impact, and pressure of the wind, dislodged the two doors which dangled behind the aircraft still tethered to the airframe. 

Pilot Rod Vaughan was able to get himself out of the wreckage but suffered a head injury. 

"I immediately looked to get the plane on the ground. We were about 1600 to 1700 feet at the time and we came down in about 30 seconds."

"There was a hedge that I think I clipped on the way," he says.

The bumpy paddock put too much pressure on the front wheel. It buckled causing the plane to flip 180 degrees. 

Vaughan and his son were able to walk away from the crash but not without injury. 

His son was able to brace himself during the crash so suffered only bruising from the seatbelt. Vaughan cut his head in the crash.

"We got ourselves out and called for help," he says. "We could have been killed."

Vaughan says the fact the window imploded in the manner it did left him with three theories.

"One would be a bird strike but we didn’t see any bird activity in the area," he said. 

"The second would be a high velocity rifle shot but I think we can rule that out. 

"Another option is a drone."

Vaughan hopes the Civil Aviation Authority conducts a thorough investigation into the incident but he admits the truth might never come out. 

"I don’t think someone is going to put their hand up and say, ’I am missing a drone and it was last seen flying near your aircraft’."

Vaughan says spotting a drone while flying is nearly impossible and the prevalence of drones is putting amateur airmen at risk.

"Kids can buy drones for $90 at the Warehouse.

"It’s hard enough to spot a plane in the air which is why we rely on radio reports but drone operators are not using radios."

The CAA said they are still conducting an investigation and will make comment when more information comes to hand.  

President of the Airline Pilots Association Tim Robinson says he’s alarmed at the number of near misses involving drones and is also calling for greater regulation.  

"There’s been a growth in the sale of drones recently which is why there needs to be tighter regulation."

Robinson says it’s time New Zealand fell in line with other countries when it came to regulation.

"Registration of drones over 250g is already in place in the United States and Australia. It’s easy in the United States where they have an online registration." 

He thinks fixing the problem will require a multi-faceted approach but sees the onus of understanding regulations as falling on the person flying the drone. 

 - Stuff/Matt Shand.

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Drones must be so evil...

Posted on 08-04-2018 14:37 | By GreertonBoy

However, as of yet, there is no proof it was a drone that caused the accident. It may equally have been a meteorite, a stray golf ball or even pilot error? Perhaps it would be appropriate to wait for an outcome of the investigation before automatically trying to pin it on some nonexistant drone? Sure, drone operators do need to think about where they fly, but not all drone flyers are idiots... just some. Is it fair to ban all drones because of a few nongs? If that were applied to cars we would be in trouble. I say, prove it was a drone, or change the headline... it only adds ammunition to the ’anti drone’ mob.... Unfair!

I watched a drone more than 3 months ago. Harbour;s edge.

Posted on 29-03-2018 21:54 | By Bruja

It was launched by a guy who just pulled up in his car, set the thing up and launched it. He flew it around a bit, obviously testing it’s capabilities and then he sent it straight up into the air so high that eventually I simply could not see it anymore. It went straight up and I watched it, without blinking, until it went so high it disappeared. About 2 minutes later an Air New Zealand plane flew into my view, FAR LOWER than the drone had gone, but on the same path. The plane was coming from the North and had obviously dropped down as it approached Tauranga airport. How the two did not collide is beyond me. I reported it to the airport but was told to report it to NZCAA? Utter madness that this is ongoing.


Posted on 29-03-2018 20:50 | By Calm down

There definitely needs to be better control on these things then, there’s not much stopping someone from intentionally flying one at a plane..

1700 feet easy

Posted on 29-03-2018 17:40 | By pnicky

Drones can easily reach heights much greater than this. Mine has a range of 8 kms but legally they are restricted to fly at a max of 120 metres. Outside this is within FAA airspace. Also no flying within 3 km of a controlled airport or around approach paths etc etc. Basically if a drone collided with a plane, the operator would be in the wrong.

I don't know much about drones

Posted on 29-03-2018 16:38 | By Calm down

But can they fly up to 1700 feet?

Hopefully find the Drone

Posted on 29-03-2018 14:56 | By Road Ranger

If this is the case hopefully it was also damaged and can be found somewhere near the plane or the owner comes forward to report it. Drones should be registered just like motor vehicles and firearms. Hope pilot and passenger make a speedy recovery.