Published date: 17 December 2020

The Civil Aviation Authority says a fatal accident in Southland in 2018 highlights why pilots must comply with the rules, and specifically manage the risks associated with visual flight rules (VFR) flight into deteriorating weather conditions.

The CAA released its report [PDF 1.5 MB] today into the crash in the Taringatura Hills of an Alpi Aviation Srl Pioneer 300 microlight aircraft. The report finds the aircraft entered fog while flying too low.

The CAA’s Aviation Safety Deputy Chief Executive, Dean Winter, says the safety of the aviation system relies on everyone who participates in that system to follow the rules.

“If they fly ‘visually’, or VFR, rather than on instruments, those rules include flying no lower than 500 feet above ground level, and not flying in poor weather,” he says.

On the day of the crash, the pilot departed Alexandra about 8.30am to join a group of microlight enthusiasts for a group flight to Stewart Island.

When the pilot failed to arrive for the pre-flight briefing and subsequent flight to Stewart Island, the Rescue Coordination Centre began a search. The aircraft wreckage was found just before 4pm on the eastern slope of the Taringatura Hills, about 13 kilometres from the pre-flight briefing site.

The report could not conclusively say why the pilot chose to continue into poor weather below 500 feet above ground.

Research, however, indicates there are many factors that may compel a pilot’s decision to 'press on'.

Dean Winter says the accident is also a timely reminder of the importance of thorough pre-flight planning. 

“It’s standard aviation procedure to check weather conditions at the destination and en-route, and also to plan the flight so the pilot can get there safely.”

The CAA publishes its aviation safety magazine Vector, Good Aviation Practice booklets and has information available to raise awareness of the risks associated with flying VFR into deteriorating weather conditions. 

The CAA’s investigation analysed the human, equipment and environmental factors that may have caused, or contributed to, the accident. 


Contact CAA media team for further information:
027 763 0000 |