Civil Aviation Authority grounds 21 Gippsland GA8 Airvan aircraft in New Zealand

GippsAero GA8 Airvan
GippsAero GA8 Airvan Photo credit: TheHDAviation / Youtube / Screenshot.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has grounded 21 aircraft operating in New Zealand over safety concerns.

CAA director Graeme Harris said on Saturday that the airworthiness certificates of all 21 Australian manufactured Gippsland GA8 Airvan aircraft operating in New Zealand have been suspended.

It follows the death of nine people in Sweden on Sunday (local time) when the aircraft crashed after leaving the runway. The Australian civil aviation regulator has also grounded the planes.

"I have sufficient concerns about the safety of these aircraft to make it necessary for me to ground them until more is known about the cause of the July 14 crash in Sweden," Harris said in a statement.

"We do not take these steps lightly but when there is a reasonable doubt about the safety of an aircraft, the flying public, operators and pilots of the affected aircraft in New Zealand must be satisfied that the CAA will act with their safety as a priority.

There are 10 aviation operators affected by the grounding of the planes, typically used on tourist flightseeing operations. Some are used around locations like Mount Cook.

Harris acknowledged there will be a significant commercial impact, but said he cannot compromise safety.

He said he understood the Australian authority have sent a specialist to Sweden to get insight into the progress of the crash investigation.

"Based on information coming out of the initial investigation into the crash it appears that the aeroplane, at 4000m altitude, suffered structural failure, but, at this time, the root cause of the accident cannot be confirmed."

The grounding is effective immediately and will continue as more information becomes available. CAA is in contact with organisations operating the aircraft.