A man has been confirmed dead following the crash of a light plane in the Coromandel.

A search and rescue team located the aircraft that failed to return from a flight over the Coromandel Peninsula in dense bush at 10 am on Saturday. Police confirmed the pilot was found deceased inside the crashed plane shortly before 3 pm.

The two-seater Vans RV-12 with one person on board took off from Whitianga Airport on Friday morning, bound for Ardmore Airport near Manurewa in Auckland. The alarm was raised at 4.25pm when the plane didn’t make it back to Whitianga.

Maritime New Zealand senior communications advisor Stephanie Morison confirmed a land-based search and rescue team had arrived at the site of the crashed plane at 10 am.

Thick fog at Manurewa meant the aircraft could not land at that location and it is understood the plane may have made a return journey to the Coromandel Peninsula, Morison said.

Its last known position on satellite and radar was in a rugged area of the Coromandel known as Kakatarahae, not far from the Coromandel township. The Auckland-based Westpac Rescue Helicopter had been assigned to search and locate duties, however, the weather conditions prevented it from getting to the location yesterday. It became involved in the search again on Saturday morning.

A police helicopter was also dispatched to the area to search for the plane, and the ground-based party of Search and Rescue volunteers from LandSAR was sent in overnight, bound for the aircraft’s last known position. Mercury Bay Aero Club member Tony Turner said he could not divulge the identity of the pilot, other than he was a “well-loved” Whitianga man and a well-known member of the club.

“We are going to let the family do the talking. We might come out with something a bit later on in the week.”

The death will be referred to the coroner and the Civil Aviation Authority will investigate the crash.

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