Warbaks Wanaka Crash As a consequence of "System Failure" Lawyer – RNZ

Records of the moment a vintage plane crashed at Warbirds over Wanaka were played in court when the pilot tried to cover the costs.

A Yak3 at the Warbirds Over Wanaka Show.
Photo: Twitter / Paul Stewart

Arthur Dovey escaped unharmed, but one wing of his World War II yak-3 plane was destroyed after hitting two cherry pickers while landing on grass in 2018.

At today's High Court in Wellington, recordings of viewers watching the crash were played.

The commentators initially explained that Dovey landed smoothly, but seconds later there was a gasp from the crowd, along with a series of bangs, as the vintage plane crashed into the cherry pickers.

A spectator then said "what the hell".

Dovey's lawyer Chris Chapman said in his opening speech today that the pilot was not to blame.

"This is an accident caused by system failures, not pilot errors," he said.

He then quoted a report from the civil aviation authority on the case.

"A textbook example of an organizational accident," he said.

Chapman spoke about a number of communication issues, including the fact that Dovey had radioed him that he was going to land on the lawn.

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

A briefing earlier in the day had spoken about the conditions on the lawn, and it was mentioned that planes could land on part, Chapman said.

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

"The problem with this is that an air traffic service, if it is objective, is provided by untrained, unregulated, untested but well-intentioned amateurs – this accident is a consequence of that," he said.

The repair bill for the destroyed wing was hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Dovey wanted those costs back from the organizers of the show.

Arthur Dovey's Yak-3 was one of two that participated in the opening exhibition and replaced an F-16 plane due to wet weather.

Dovey commented in the late afternoon, completing his long career in aviation and his experience with aircraft.

He told the court that the grass was available for landing.

"At these air shows – and at Warbirds over Wanaka 2018 – it was common for them to start on seals and land in the grass," he said.

He said the grass was much better for airplanes like his Yak-3 because he was taught that in training and less tire wear.

He said he landed in Wanaka about 950 times – 500 in the seal, 450 in the grass.

He is expected to continue tomorrow.

The case is set for 10 days.

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