Not Helping The Cause Of General Aviation

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

A former flight instructor who allegedly thought that threatening to crash a Piper Cherokee into New Zealand's tallest building was the way to win back his estranged wife's heart is in hospital in Auckland, N.Z., after a two-hour drama that ended Saturday with the Cherokee crashing in the water 150 feet from a downtown beach. The man is being accused of stealing the Cherokee from the Massey University School of Aviation at Auckland's Ardmore Airport and telling air traffic controllers he planned to crash it into the Sky Tower, a 1,000-foot building in downtown Auckland. He reportedly told police his wife had left him and he wanted her back. No one else was hurt in the incident but the aircraft's low-level pass over the beach made an impression on 17-year-old Tortia Wilson and her friends. "We just wet ourselves," she told TV New Zealand. "If you've got an airplane coming at you, you don't know whether to run or hide." The Cherokee was shadowed by a police helicopter, but the New Zealand Air Force didn't scramble any fighters ... perhaps because it doesn't have any. The New Zealand Defence Force's Air Combat Wing was dissolved four years ago and the 34 A-4 Skyhawks and Aermacchi jets have been mothballed ever since. The whole fleet is heading to the U.S. It was purchased by a civilian contractor, Tactical Air Services, for about $110 million. The company provides pilot training under contract to the U.S. government.