A pilot was told he was lucky to not even scratch the paint on the plane he was flying after making an emergency landing in Wanaka.
Chris Johnson was flying an amphibious Lake Renegade 250 plane from North Canterbury to Wanaka for a routine service on behalf of its Auckland owner on Tuesday.
But when he arrived in Wanaka shortly after noon, he was forced to belly land the plane without its wheels on the grass runway.
Johnson, a pilot and entrepeneur based in Christchurch, said the plane was only one of two Lake Renegade 250 in New Zealand.
Johnson left Rangiora about 10am. The problems began just after take off when the two main wheels retracted but the nose wheel did not.
He continued to fly to Wanaka because the best support was there, he said.
"The idea of returning back to Rangiora without the safety services there ... the guy that knows most about them is based at Wanaka."
He communicated with engineers as he flew to Wanaka.
"We had quite a few messages going backwards and forwards and I was able to talk to them on the phone as to what the problem might be. They've been able to get the fire service and the police and the ambulance there just in case something went wrong."
He had trained for emergencies, he said.
"It's not a scary sort of thing to happen. I wasn't worried myself about that. You wear a seatbelt in a car, but you don't expect a crash."
Johnson is an expert in amphibious aircrafts – planes that can land on water and land – and is one of only a few instructors in New Zealand.
Landing on Lake Wanaka was suggested, but he could not because the nose wheel had not retracted. On the lake, the wheel may have caught on the water, causing the aircraft to flip, he said.
Instead, they decided to land on the grass runway beside the sealed runway.
The investigation found a failure in the hydraulic system that lowers the wheels. Emergency services were at the scene, but were not needed.
An engineer told Johnson he was lucky to not even scratch the paint.
Johnson drove back to Christchurch after the incident.
Luggate fire chief Ron Anderson said it was a "very good landing" on the grass runway.
There was a collective sigh of relief from those watching when it landed safely, he said.
"The pilot made a very good job of bringing it down."
Johnson said he had 46 years experience as a pilot and likened the accident to getting a flat tyre on a car.
"It spoils the day a bit but hey, you know, just keep going."
- Additional reporting by Debbie Jamieson