23 Feb 2005

Two New Zealand pilots die from injuries sustained in Papua New Guinea plane crash

3:08 pm on 23 February 2005

Two New Zealand pilots have been killed in a plane crash in the mountains of western Papua New Guinea.

Captains Chris Hansen, who was 37, and Richard West, who was 40, were piloting a Missionary Aviation Fellowship Twin Otter aircraft when it crashed near Wobegon in the Star Mountains early yesterday afternoon.

Both pilots died from injuries sustained in the crash while the cabin attendant and 10 passengers on the twin-engined aircraft survived with only minor injuries.

Officers from PNG's Civil Aviation Authority and the Missionary Aviation Fellowship will fly into the crash area today to begin an investigation into the incident.

The chief operating officer of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, Mark Emerson, has described the two captains as highly qualified, professional and dedicated pilots.

Mr Emerson says the fellowship is organising counselling for the pilots' wives and children who are based in the town of Telefomin.

He says the aircraft was coming in to land after flying from Tabubil but nothing more was known about the cause of the crash.