Search for missing aircraft in Taranaki

Searching will resume at first light this morning for a single engine aircraft with two people on board, overdue after leaving Whitianga yesterday afternoon, heading for Stratford.

The Zenith 601XL aircraft, with a man and a woman on board, was last heard from when it made a radio call to the New Plymouth Control Tower at about 4pm, when approximately 40km north east of Whangamomona in Taranaki.

Earlier, at 3.30pm, the aircraft had radioed from Mokau to report poor weather conditions and indicated it was heading inland.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was advised at around 5.30pm that the aircraft was overdue and a fixed wing aircraft from Hamilton searched along the likely route, detecting what is believed to be a distress beacon signal coming from an area of rugged terrain, around 4km south of Matau.

An RNZAF NH90 helicopter from Okahea flew area to investigate at 11pm last night and searched for four hours but could not detect the distress beacon signal. A two-man police search and rescue team also attempted to reach the area on foot, but without success.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Mike Roberts said poor weather conditions in the area made searching challenging.

“There is low visibility which makes searching from the air difficult but we are planning to have a helicopter return to the area shortly after dawn, if conditions allow,” he said.

“Daylight will also allow us to better assess if conditions will allow a ground search.”