Five different areas around the Coromandel have been covered today in the search for the missing aircraft which took off from Ardmore airfield, south-east of Auckland at 11.25am on Tuesday.
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) Mission Coordinator Dave Wilson said no sign of the missing aircraft had been found.
The Auckland Police launch Deodar III and the Police National Dive Squad have completed a grid search of Wainuiototo Bay, after the sighting of a small oil slick yesterday morning. Searching yesterday failed to locate the oil slick but a search area was determined by drift modelling carried out by Maritime New Zealand’s Maritime Pollution Response Service.
Also today, a RNZAF Iroquois Helicopter began a search of the eastern side of Coromandel Peninsula, from Cape Colville down to Matarangi. This is likely to continue tomorrow.
The Westpac Trust Waikato rescue helicopter from Hamilton completed a search of an area of bush to the south of Miranda, near the bottom of the Firth of Thames, and also searched the Karangahake Gorge between Paeroa and Waihi.
Meanwhile, the Philips Trust fixed-wing aircraft, also from Hamilton, completed a search the northern end of the Firth of Thames, and will complete a shoreline search on the western side of Coromandel Peninsula en route back to base.
Mr Wilson said the information from the public had been valuable in establishing the search areas.
“Because we do not have any information about the planned route of the aircraft, and it disappeared from radar within minutes of taking off from Ardmore, it’s been important to get credible sightings and we’d like to thank the public for their response. These sightings have formed the basis of our search areas.”
Options for the next stage of the operation will be assessed overnight.
The home-built aerobatic bi-plane, carrying only the 53-year-old male pilot from Mt Wellington, was heading in a north-easterly direction when it disappeared from radar, shortly after take-off. No distress beacon was activated, but the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) launched a search after a friend of the pilot reported concern for his safety.
Reported sightings by members of the public indicate the aircraft is likely to have continued flying in a north-easterly direction.
Anyone who saw the plane on Tuesday (25 March) or had any information that might assist the search should contact RCCNZ on 0508 472 269 or the Police