Friends and family pay tribute to Arrowtown plane crash victim – Tauranga’s Ian Sloan – who loved to share his passion for flying. Paul Taylor and Celia Williams report
Soaring in the clear blue skies above the Bay of Plenty last weekend pilot Ian Sloan was finally “living his dream”.
The Tauranga man, known as “Ned”, had yearned to return to the air.
Close friend Queens-towner Steve Rout says: “He wanted to get a plane for some years.
“Ned did a lot of flying when he was younger. He re-took his test and finally bought one about two years ago.
“He was living his dream really.”
Sloan, 59, was so enraptured with his beloved Cessna Skyhawk that he often took close friends and family on free sightseeing flights.
Last week, he ferried about two dozen people over stricken cargo ship Rena, off the North Island coast, so they could see the oil-spill devastation first hand.
Second-cousin Amanda Sloan says: “He made at least five runs over the ship with family and friends – all for free. [My son] Jaden and his friends went Friday, after Ian helped me move house that morning.
“Then on Saturday morning he took me and mum up. He loved flying so much.”
That afternoon Sloan flew down to Queenstown for a holiday with his 36-year-old stepson. They were staying with Rout, who owns a Frankton contracting firm.
“I’d known him since I was 12 years old,” Rout says.
“Ned came down to Queenstown looking for work in the early 1970s and lived with us.
“We were due to meet at my house on Poutama Island [near Stewart Island] on Monday.”
On Monday morning Sloan flew to Invercargill with two passengers – his stepson and a 61-year-old female friend from Wanaka.
They helicoptered to the island, where Sloan assessed recent damage to the roof.
Meanwhile, Rout was desperately trying to catch a flight in Christchurch to join them.
“After standing in the queue in Christchurch for an hour by the time I finally got a ticket they wouldn’t board me,” Rout says.
“I was due to fly back to Queenstown with Ned. I was angry I had missed the flight.”
About 2pm, the light aircraft took off from Invercargill Airport, scheduled to land on a small grass airstrip near Arrowtown golf course.
Then just after 3pm, three local golfers heard a plane’s engines struggling in the skies, followed by a loud bang.
They found the Cessna Skyhawk plane, planted nose-first into a berm by the tee block on the number 7 hole.
Golfer Greg McMeeken called emergency services and directed fire appliances where to go while his mates Bryce Jack and Dave Cruickshank raced to the scene. Jack and Cruickshank pulled people from the wreckage and desperately tried to resuscitate Sloan. Medical experts pronounced him dead at the scene.
McMeeken held the Sloan’s stepson in his arms as he lay on the ground.
“His eyes were there but he wasn’t saying anything. I told him that the ambulance was going to be there very soon,” McMeeken says.
“It wasn’t a nice scene.”
Jack has declined to comment because of the Civil Aviation Authority investigation but says he’s doing ok.
“We’ve had contact from Victim Support, but no, there’s no problem there.”
Sloan’s two passengers were airlifted to Dunedin Hospital where they currently remain with moderate injuries.
The woman had surgery on her pelvis on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Rout – who was in Christchurch at the time of the crash – was unaware of it till later on Monday afternoon.
“I was getting pretty concerned because I knew he should have been on the ground.
“I’d phoned two or three times but was getting no answer. He always phones me whenever he lands to let me know he’s down.”
Rout heard about his friend’s death a short time later.
“I went from being angry to concerned and then I was relieved when I heard, you know, because I wasn’t on it.
“It is very difficult. I’m really sad about what’s happened.
“He was a hell of a good guy. A great friend.”
CAA investigators checked out the broken wreckage of the plane at the golf course yesterday with the intention of getting it choppered out of there once the site examination is complete.
Rout: “He was a cautious flyer. I’ve been in and out of that strip with him quite a bit; so has the family.
“Ned was certainly aware of its dangers and its advantages, so theoretically there shouldn’t have been any surprises.
“But you just don’t know what happened on the day or in that moment unfortunately.”
Second-cousin Amanda, 38, says Sloan had been like a father to her son in recent years.
“He meant so much to both of us.
“It’s such a shock, especially after spending so much time with him at the weekend.”