DC-3 crashes in Kaimai Range

3 July 1963

Wreckage of the National Airways Corporation DC3 (NZ Herald/newspix.co.nz)

The 1963 crash of a National Airways Corporation DC3, with the loss of all 23 people on board, remains the worst air accident within New Zealand. 

The flight departed from Auckland, bound for Wellington via Tauranga, Gisborne and Napier. The weather was stormy, but forecasts underestimated the force of the wind. During its descent into Tauranga, the plane was caught in a turbulent downdraught, slamming into a ridge on the Kaimai Range. Insufficient altitude and navigational problems contributed to the crash, but the ferocious winds were the deciding factor. It took rescuers two days to locate and reach the crash site.

A Court of Inquiry noted that there was no distance-measuring equipment at Tauranga airport, which would have given the pilot an accurate indication of how far he was from his destination. It recommended that this equipment be installed at all commercial airports, suggested a review of minimum safe altitudes for flights, and that aircraft carry locator beacons so they could quickly be found in the event of a crash. 

Further information

Richard Waugh, Kaimai crash: New Zealand’s worst internal air disaster, Kynaston Charitable Trust and Craig Printing Ltd, Invercargill, 2003