Plane crash survivor: I’ll fly again


A Queenstown pilot lucky to survive a training flight crash says it won’t stop him returning to the skies. 

Hank Sproull, the owner of scenic flights company Air Milford, was a passenger in a 1950’s light Piper plane which plunged into a ditch near Branches high country station on Saturday. 

Sproull and the female pilot were on a private training flight – nothing to do with Air Milford – when the crash happened about 30km out of Queenstown. The pair set off their beacon alert at 12.10pm and authorities had a chopper in the air within 10 minutes. The plane was a write-off but the lucky twosome was escorted back to

Sproull, speaking from home, says he and the pilot and are lucky to be alive. 

“I’m bloody shaken up about it. It’s been a bad experience that I wouldn’t wish on anybody. We could just as easily have been killed.” 

Despite the whole episode stressing him out, Sproull says it won’t put him off flying. 

“It’s just one of those things that happens in flying. It’s like when you have a car crash – it’s not going to stop you driving a car again. 

“I mean, I’ve got a business to run. We’ve had a 100 per cent safety record ever since we’ve been flying and I intend to keep it that way, so yes, I’ll be flying again, definitely,” Sproull says. 

Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand spokesman James Sygrove says he understands the pair had gone to Branches to practice take-offs and landings. 

“The aircraft was just taking off and had just become airborne when it came down hard whilst it was
still accelerating and went through a fence. 

“We had a chopper in the air within 10 minutes so the message is take a beacon with you. It just means we can find people within a matter of minutes as opposed to days.” 

The Piper plane, understood to be owned by a Cantabrian, had previously been stored at the hangar of the Wakatipu Aero Club which had been using it for training flights. 

Aero Club ex-president Peter Daniell, who stood down a couple of weeks ago, says in the week prior to the crash the club had passed it to Sproull to use for his own training. 

“It’s an ideal little training plane,” Daniell says. 

“It’s very basic in its set up and some people would think that’s probably the best way to learn to fly. It doesn’t have all the flash latest gauges in it that compensate for all sorts of things. You have to fly properly to fly well so it generally brings out good pilots in the end,” Daniell adds. 

The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the crash. 

CAA spokesman Bill Sommer says being able to interview the pilot will help determine the cause.
“That’s what we’re after – to determine the cause and see if we can learning anything from it.”