A NZ post Metro exploded over New Plymouth last night. Very sad indeed.
A plane that crashed killing two crew in Taranaki last night shook houses as it passed overhead on fire before exploding into a ball of flames.
The Airworks Metroliner, carrying courier cargo from Auckland to Blenheim, crashed about 10.15pm around 5km east of Stratford.
Stratford police today named the two pilots killed in the crash. They were Clive Rodger Adamson, 43, of Wellington, and Anthony Brian Arthur Drummond, 41, of Manukau City.
Inspector Frank Grant said the bodies of the two men had been recovered from the crash scene and were being taking to New Plymouth where a post mortem would be carried out.
About 15 to 20 people had come into the police station today with items of debris and witness accounts, he said.
The debris had been found up to 15km from the farmland - about 5km east of Stratford - where the fuselage and cockpit had been found.
It appeared the aircraft turned off course and went off radar before the crash, Mr Grant said.
Area resident Geoff Hunger said the plane had shaken his house last night, making a noise something like a fighter jet, as it went overhead.
He thought the noise had been so intense inside the house probably because the plane had been so low at the time.
"We wondered what was coming through the house as it went over the top of here. That made us look out the window and you could see the thing on fire," he said.
"It was just a ball of flames ... It was like you'd got a big bonfire in your backyard as it went through."
After hearing the noise and going outside he had seen "this orange glow going through the sky and about 20 seconds later there was just a big explosion (in midair), I suppose, but you didn't hear it from here", Mr Hunger said.
"When it exploded you saw the big, big flash of exploding, then you saw what would be the burning bits of the plane falling out of the sky."
He had thought it might be a meteor, but "if it was a shooting star, she was one hell of a shooting star."
It had been frightening when it went past.
"You thought, 'that's fair moving', and it was just a big bright light, a big orange glow going through the sky, and then as it sort of slows down on what is our horizon it just went 'boof' into a big red, orange glow. Then you just saw these bits fall to the ground like teardrops of just big balls of flame."
Another resident, Clair Edwards, said the noise had given her a fright.
"It was a huge, huge noise ... unbelievable."
At first it sounded something like the noise made when young motorists did "donuts" on the road, she said.
"But I thought, it's too heavy. Then it just got louder and louder and then this huge explosion then dead silence, totally dead silence."
Inspector Tom Ireland of police central communications said major pieces of wreckage had been found in gullies and wooded areas, with the Fire Service being called in to put out fires.
Police had received about 20 phone calls about the crash, with reports varying from "a ball of fire in the sky", to "a ball of fire on the ground", Mr Ireland said.
"So at some stage there has been a fire, whether it's been in the air, and a break-up has occurred in the air, or on the ground, that's for the air crash investigators to determine."
"In this case the plane's come down from over 20,000 feet, so the impact's been quite substantial and there will of course be debris spread over quite a wide ... field."
Last night's operation had not been difficult, with the Rescue Coordination Centre putting a helicopter up and police getting staff to the area, Mr Ireland said.
"It was just a matter of locating exactly where the aircraft had come to rest, in the major pieces.
"Being in rural farmland, of course, we were very, very lucky that there were no injuries on the ground."
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission said it had sent two people to Taranaki today to investigate the cause of the crash.
The plane was a Fairchild metroliner SA227-AC, registration ZK-POA, chief investigator of accidents John Mockett said in a statement.
A Blenheim air cargo pilot who has been in the business for many years said investigators would look first at whether someone had posted "undeclared hazardous goods" that should not have been sent.
"Aeroplanes don't come down like this," he said. "It is not normally this dramatic. It is going to be something unusual."
Such goods could include anything combustible - turpentine, for example.
The pilot said there had not been a mid-air collision and there would not have been birds up there.
After cargo, the next possibility was mechanical, he said.
The incident was an unfortunate tragedy that involved two very experienced pilots.
New Zealand Post spokesman Ian Long said there was nothing to suggest any hazardous substances were on board.
"It wouldn't help at all to get into speculation at his stage," he said.
He said people had a responsibility to declare hazardous substances and there were checks and balances to ensure unsafe material was not sent.
The plane had been carrying items sent through courier brands Courier Post and Skyroad, largely all destined for Blenheim and Nelson.
The brands were operated by the company Express Couriers, a joint venture between NZ Post and DHL.
The aircraft had been operated by company Airworks on behalf of NZ Post.
Brings back memories hearing about the Metroliner II that had a left wheel well fire just after takeoff from Dorval (Montreal) in June 1998 and crashed minutes later killing all 11 aboard when attempting to emergency land at Mirabel. (the fire had spread to the wing which then came apart)
GQ is selling their Metro IIIs and 23s. Well, maybe I shouldn't say "sell" because I think most of them are leased. But I know we're getting out of the "Metro bizness". Too high and too hot here in the summer months for them to operate economically...
Here is a media release, courtesy of the Courier Post web-site
Announcement: Air Accident in Taranaki
It is with sadness that Express Couriers Limited advises that a plane carrying Courierpost and Skyroad Express freight crashed last night (Tuesday 3rd May) about 7 kms from Stratford killing both pilots. The plane was on a flight from Auckland to Blenheim and was estimated to be carrying around 600 Skyroad Express and CourierPost packages destined mostly for Nelson or Blenheim. There are obviously many factors that are unknown at this time as our recovery process is still at a very early stage. We’ll continue to monitor this situation and provide customers with updated information via this bulletin. Alternatively you can also contact us on 0800 COURIER (268 7437). Thank you for your understanding.
I doubt it would have been a bomb iin the mail either. For starters, who would do it, and why? Most likely cause would be something engine related such as a burst fuel pipe etc. I am only guessing. Would be interesting to see the info in the FDR and Voice recorder.
Very sad news indeed for NZ Post, NZ aviation and the families involved.
Being an ex NZ Post worker myself, I look out for the NZ Post Metroliners parked up on the apron at various airports around NZ., and often hear the drone of their engines very late at night as they fly past my home, a few minutes after take off from Momona.
Let's hope in our beautiful country that a bomb was not the cause.
As a current NZ Post employee, I can say that the sadness and in many cases grief is felt throughout the Post Group of companies. John Allen, our CEO sent out a heartfelt email to all employees which included the Media Announcement on the Courier Post website.
This time the post didn't get through.
Haere ra korua; me hoki mai ano. Farewell to you both; you are welcome to return.
Motor Hussy, has there been any word as to what may have happened? If it was wiring, I know GQ dumped two of our Metro IIIs because of bad wiring. This was...about 3-4 months ago. Best wishes to you and your fellow co-workers.
Speculations continue, I was at Burger King and some guy came up to me and asked me what the hell happened with the crash. Weird.
Anyway, the Black Box is in Australia being analyzed now and it is said that it should be released in a few days.
The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority have confirmed that Metroliners in the past operating in NZ have been subject to several CAA airworthiness directives, some relating to potential fire risk. All Metroliner operators were given directives in November 2001 and December 2003 in a bid to prevent a mid-air fire implicated in the crash. Wiring throu the fuel tank was the most problems.