Wānaka Sun       

Warbirds over Wānaka in High Court over 2018 accident

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 16 Jul, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

Warbirds over Wānaka (WOW) is being put through the wringer in the High Court in Wellington over an accident in 2018 that caused significant damage to a vintage plane

Pilot Arthur Dovey escaped unharmed, but a wing on his World War II Yak-3 aircraft was destroyed after hitting one of two cherry pickers during landing on the grass.

The repair bill for the destroyed wing was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Dovey wanted to recover those costs from show organisers.

Dovey's plane was one of two involved in the opening display and replaced an F-16 aircraft because of wet weather.

In an RNZ report, Dovey told the court the grass was available for landing as well as the tarmac.

He said the grass was much better for landing aircraft such as his Yak-3, because he was taught that in his training, as well as it being less wear-and-tear on the tyres.

"Common practise for war or tail wheeled aircraft at those air shows - and at Warbirds over Wānaka 2018 - was for them to take off on seal and land on the grass," he said.

He said he had landed at Wānaka roughly 950 times - 500 in the seal, 450 on the grass.

WOW general manager Ed Taylor told the court the cherry pickers were on the grass for a display that was to follow Dovey's.

He said they were put in place earlier than expected for a light-sport aircraft (LSA) display because of timing.

Dovey's lawyer Chris Chapman said in his opening submission that the pilot was not at fault.

"This is an accident caused by systemic failures - and not by pilot error," he said.

Chapman talked about a series of communication mishaps, including that Dovey had radio communicated that he was planning to land on the grass.

He told the court that some people had thought the cherry pickers had been removed, while others knew they were still in place.

Chapman said there was serious negligence and the people behind the scenes were to blame, not Arthur Dovey.

The case before Justice Mallon is set down for up to 10 days. Watch this space.

Read edition 983 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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