Drone may have caused Waihi plane crash

The pilot of a plane that crash-landed in Waihi says a drone may be to blame.

Veteran broadcaster Rod Vaughan and his son Richard were on a recreational flight over the Western Bay on Wednesday afternoon, using a small plane belonging to the Hauraki Aviation Club.

At about 3:10pm the plane's windscreen "exploded" and a rush of air filled the cockpit, Mr Vaughan told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"The wind coming through was so forceful that it blew my headset into the back of the plane, so I had no communications."

Airways New Zealand told Newshub the incident occurred outside of controlled airspace so the pilot was not in communication with air traffic control.

The plane's other windows also blew out, forcing Mr Vaughan to make an emergency crash landing.

Rod Vaughan suffered a large gash in his head after the crash landing.
Rod Vaughan suffered a large gash in his head after the crash landing. Photo credit: Supplied

He landed hard in a field south of Waihi, clipping a hedge and tipping over after impact. Both passengers were left hanging upside down, still strapped into their harnesses.

After leaving the plane, Mr Vaughan and his son were taken to Tauranga Hospital and treated for contusions and a large gash, respectively.

Neither man saw what shattered the windscreen, but Mr Vaughan told the Bay of Plenty Times that the "most probable explanation" is that it was a drone, as there had been reports of drone activity in the area.

If his suspicions prove correct, this would be the first time a drone has caused an aircraft to crash in New Zealand.

Mr Vaughan says the use of drones needs to be more tightly regulated to prevent similar incidents in future.

The Civil Aviation Authority told Newshub they are investigating the crash.

One of their investigators intends to speak to Mr Vaughan of the aircraft on Thursday afternoon to try and find out exactly what happened.

They will be talking to witnesses and others during this information-gathering stage, and it is unknown how long the investigation is expected to take.

On Sunday a drone came within 5m of an Air New Zealand plane as it landed at Auckland Airport.