21 Nov 2009

Pair killed in microlight crash drunk

6:43 am on 21 November 2009

Two men killed in a microlight crash in Hawke's Bay last year had each drunk 20 cans of beer before deciding to take the plane out at 3am, a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report has found.

Antony Bell, who was the Wairoa Aero Club's chief flying instructor, and club president Darryn McNay died in the crash near Wairoa aerodrome in May last year. It happened within six minutes of their take-off, as they were returning to the aerodrome.

The report says the men flew in bad weather conditions and in an aircraft not certified for night flying.

The Coroner in Hastings, Chris Devonport, says the men should never have taken off, and that they gave themselves very little chance of surviving their joyride.

Post-mortem examinations found both men had more than double the legal blood alcohol level for driving a motor vehicle.

Mr Devonport says there was also an ingredient of cannabis detected in Mr McNay's blood consistent with his having smoked cannabis within 10 hours of his death.

Judgement 'clouded'

CAA spokesperson Bill Sommer says the crash was not caused by any mechanical failure.

He says such tragic accidents are very rare and in this case the men's judgement was clouded by drinking too much.

Mr Sommer says aviation rules do not permit those flying a plane to have any alcohol in their system, and the majority of aviators abide by the rules.

Wairoa Aero Club chairman Rob Mayhead says he is still at a loss to understand why two senior club members decided to take a late night joyride.

He says he still cannot fathom the out of character behaviour from two usually responsible men. Both left behind wives and children.

Mr Mayhead says drinking and flying do not mix which club members are well aware of.

The club has suffered financial difficulties since the crash, losing its main aircraft and experiencing a downturn in flying students.