9 Jun 2010

Pilot's training kicks in when plane catches fire

8:00 pm on 9 June 2010

A routine sky-diving flight in Northland turned into drama in the air after the plane caught fire.

The pilot, Jon-Claude Welson, had just taken off from Bay of Islands Airport in Kerikeri when he and his three passengers smelt gas and the cabin began to fill with smoke.

He says the tandem sky-divers seemed happy to jump out of the plane but his training kicked in and he was able to clear the cabin of smoke during the descent, while the Cessna's cowl-flaps kept the engine cool.

It wasn't till he was on the ground, Mr Welson says, that he realised the full extent of what had just happened.

He thinks a burst fuel line under the engine caused the fire.