Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
10 April 2012


For further information contact:

Senior Communications Adviser, Emma Peel
Tel: 04 560 9646, or 027 272 3545


Microlight fatal accident report - Abel Tasman

Forecast severe turbulence and downdraughts are thought to have struck a microlight that crashed in the Abel Tasman National Park on 9 February 2009, killing two men.

A commercial pilot and his passenger died after the Airborne Windsports Edge XT 912 microlight, registration ZK-DGZ, suffered in-flight structural failure and crashed into dense bush.

A CAA safety investigation has concluded it is most likely the microlight was inadvertently flown into a localised region of severe turbulence, rotor winds and downdraughts in the lee of Gibbs Hill, which resulted in in-flight failure of the rear leading edge spar and subsequent breakup of the aircraft.

Although the pilot was aware the weather forecast indicated possible severe turbulence, he had completed three uneventful flights earlier that day, and the fatal flight had begun in good weather conditions. It was likely the pilot had not expected those conditions to change, and had not altered his route accordingly.

Coroner C J Devonport will tomorrow publicly release findings from his inquiry into the deaths of Alexander Robin Charles and Steven Eckhardt, and is expected to make recommendations to the Minister of Transport, the Ministry of Transport and the CAA relating to the regulation of microlights. Any recommendations will be carefully considered as part of the CAA’s ongoing programme of safety enhancement.

As background, this accident is the only one in which a fare-paying passenger has been killed in a microlight in the past five years. There have been seven other fatal accidents occurring on recreational flights – a total of 11 deaths since April 2007.

In November 2011 a new adventure aviation rule came into force to more tightly control commercial microlight operations. Part 115 brings all adventure aviation activities, in which fare-paying passengers are carried, fully into the civil aviation safety system and requires safety standards similar to that of a small airline. Microlight operators must certificate under Part 115 by 1 November 2012.

Click here to read the full report

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