Crashed plane missing for six days in 1948 before being spotted on Mt Ruapehu


- Crashed plane missing for six days in 1948 before being spotted on Mt Ruapehu

A glint of silver on snowy Mt Ruapehu was the primary aerial glimpse of a plane missing for practically per week with 13 individuals on board.

It was the shiny steel wreckage of Kaka, a Lockheed Electra passenger plane. It had skidded on a flat part of the mountain, shot over a 40m large gully, and slammed right into a rock wall.

Sixty-nine years in the past, the plane named after a New Zealand native parrot broke aside, leaving one wing on a ledge, with a lot of the relaxation falling again into the gully. Debris was scattered over a large space.

The influence was so nice it precipitated a part of the fuselage to crunch ahead into itself like a telescope. The air-speed indicator in the wreck was discovered jammed at 150 miles per hour (241km/h).

- Crashed plane missing for six days in 1948 before being spotted on Mt Ruapehu

The wreck of the National Airways Corporation airliner Kaka in a gully on Mt Ruapehu, 1948. Photo / Herald archives

The crew of two and their 11 passengers, together with a younger boy, have been presumed to have died immediately in the crash on October 23, 1948.

The pilot, Max Hare, was discovered in the crushed nostril of the plane, however the physique of his co-pilot, Brian Russell, was buried in a metre of snow below the proper wing. Two passengers have been discovered in the snow below the fuselage.

The crash of the Kaka, a National Airways Corporation airliner, was New Zealand’s worst civilian air catastrophe to that date. An inquiry later concluded it had gone off track due to miscalculations in navigating by means of horrible climate.

- Crashed plane missing for six days in 1948 before being spotted on Mt Ruapehu

Herald report, November 1, 1948. Source: Herald archives

- Crashed plane missing for six days in 1948 before being spotted on Mt Ruapehu

The inexperienced marker exhibits the approximate location of the crash, about 1600m northeast of Lake Surprise on Mt Ruapehu’s western facet. Map: topomap.co.nz

After intensive looking out from quite a few planes, Flying Officer D. W. Gray, a radio operator in an air pressure Dakota, spotted the Kaka.

“There was a theory that the aircraft might be on the western slopes, and we circled in that vicinity,” the Dakota’s captain, Flight Lieutenant C. L. Siegert, advised the Herald on the time.

“The glint of silver towards the snow was what Flying Officer Gray noticed, and as we circled at 6500 toes, between 500 and 1000 toes above, it appeared that the Electra had hit the facet of the mountain and rolled down right into a gully.

“The Electra appeared to have been shattered. We might see what we took to be a part of the wing, and one other massive piece that seemed just like the double tail meeting. Other elements, not identifiable from the air, have been scattered about, between the place the Kaka apparently struck and the place the larger bits of wreckage have been in the gully.”

The wreckage was pretty effectively lined with snow and from the air there gave the impression to be no signal of life, nor any hint of fireplace.

The passengers have been Trevor and Helen Collinge and their younger son Keith, Margaret Kunz, Gertrude Pease, Lindley Andrews, William Bell, Frederick Follas, Merton Heywood, R. W. Munford and Roderick Phyn.

- Crashed plane missing for six days in 1948 before being spotted on Mt Ruapehu

The Lockheed Electra airliner Kaka crashed into Mt Ruapehu in 1948, killing all 13 individuals on board. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library

The plane took off from Palmerston North at 1.16pm and was heading to Hamilton in heavy cloud and rain.

Kaka’s preliminary course was in direction of Whanganui before a northerly swing to move west of the excessive peaks of Ruapehu. The plane was observed passing over Ohakune. Fear of catastrophe set in when it did not arrive in Hamilton.

Wide air searches have been made, from Whanganui to Rotorua and Hamilton, and as soon as the plane was discovered, six days after its disappearance, New Zealand’s greatest mountain rescue operation to that date received below means.

- Crashed plane missing for six days in 1948 before being spotted on Mt Ruapehu

Rod Winchcombe, with a mountain membership staff, was one of many first to the scene of the plane crash in 1948. Photo / Stuart Munro

Rod Winchcombe, now 88 and dwelling in Wanganui, was, at age 19, was in one of many first groups to stroll as much as the scene.

He had heard a radio report ski information from the Chateau Tongariro had ascended to the summit space and, wanting down the opposite, western, facet of Ruapehu, had seen the crashed plane in the neighborhood of the Mangaturuturu River.

Winchcombe and 5 mountain membership mates from Taihape hopped on the evening practice north to Ohakune and walked up the southwestern flank of Ruapehu in the darkish. They stopped for a daybreak brew at Blyth Hut before heading up and across the mountain to search out the plane about 1600m northeast of Lake Surprise. Another staff arrived, from Horopito, at just about the identical time.

“The left wing was indifferent from the physique of the plane and there was a gap in the facet of the plane,” Winchcombe recalls. “There have been one or two our bodies on the skin; most of them have been inside.

“There was a rich smell of fuel that was quite strong.”

Victims have been wrapped in parachute materials certain to poles to be taken down the mountain before being carried on horse-drawn trolleys alongside a bush tramway to Horopito.

Describing the restoration operation, the Herald wrote: “Prophetically accurate would appear to have been the message from three deer-stalkers who, on returning from the densely-wooded area near Pokaka, on the western side of Ruapehu, reported hearing an aircraft in heavy cloud last Saturday. They said it was near Ruapehu, and that its motors appeared to cut out suddenly.”

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