CAA believes cattle on airstrip before fatal crash

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Ian Sloan may have flown over the grass airstrip several times to clear cattle before his plane plunged on to nearby Arrowtown golf course, an investigator says. 

Civil Aviation Authority officials spent yesterday at the crash site as they attempt to find out what led to Monday’s accident that killed Sloan, 59, and badly-injured two passengers. 

Lead investigator Colin Grounsell says Sloan had aborted his landing attempt and “for some reason, yet-to-be-determined, he ap­­­pears to have lost control of the aircraft and crashed on to the golf course”. 

“I understand he did one or two stock-clearing fly-pasts,” Grounsell says. 

“It’s possible one of the cattle ran out in front of him but that will be very hard to find out. 

“We do know that the wind was a little bit gusty at the time and the plane could have been affected by a tail wind. 

“With a short airstrip like this, a tail wind would not be in the best interests of the aircraft’s performance,” Grounsell says. 

The tail of Sloan’s Cessna Skyhawk hit a small tree, causing a wing and the nose to hit the ground “very hard” before it slid down a bank. 

“The aircraft didn’t have a lot of forward speed … and the fact that it was going sideways as well will have helped dissipate some of the energy. From that point of view [the surviving passengers] were lucky,” Grounsell adds. 

The 400-metre-long air­strip, across the road from the golf course, is owned by landowner Roger Monk. Monk couldn’t be contacted before deadline. 

The CAA’s preliminary findings are expected in about four weeks.

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