New Zealand National Airways Corporation Flight 441 Crashes

New Zealand National Airways Corporation Flight 441 was a scheduled flight of New Zealand's National Airways Corporation from Whenuapai to Tauranga.

On July 3, 1963 at approximately 9.09am NZST the flight, a Douglas DC-3 Skyliner, flew into a vertical rock face in the Kaimai Ranges near Mount Ngatamahinerua, at an altitude of 2460 feet. 23 people were on board. 22 were killed instantly; there is evidence that one person survived the impact but died shortly afterward. Three extra passengers were supposed to be on the flight, but changed their plans at the last minute.

According to Civil Aviation Authority investigators, a downward current carried the aircraft below the level of the crests of the range, where under the very poor weather conditions prevailing at the time, the aircraft encountered an area of extreme turbulence from which it was impossible for the crew to recover altitude. On the day of the crash, another plane was caught in strong downdrafts in the Kaimai Ranges but managed to recover.

Flight 441 departed Whenuapai at 08:21 for a flight to Tauranga (TRG). En route to Tauranga, the DC-3 crashed into a face of a rock of the Kaimai Range at an altitude of 2460 feet.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "A strong downward current in the lee of the Kaimai Range close to the Gordon quarry. This downward current carried the aircraft below the level of the crests of the range, where under the conditions prevailing at the time, the aircraft encountered an area of extreme turbulence in which it was impossible for the pilot to regain effective control and recover height.
Contributory causes: a) The captain of the aircraft was unaware of his true position and initiated a premature descent. However, it must be appreciated that he decided to descend only to the level officially designated as the minimum safe altitude in the area of his descent. b) The decision of the Civil Aviation authorities to classify the Kaimai Range as non-mountainous terrain for the purpose of determining the safe altitude for the route. c) The misleading forecast of the upper wind between Wenuapai and Tauranga."

In July 1963, a DC-3 Skyliner left Whenuapai Airport, Auckland, at 8:21 am on a scheduled 50-minute flight to Tauranga.

Conditions were stormy, with wind and low cloud. 22 passengers were supposed to be on the flight, but 3 passengers made last-minute changes to their plans and did not catch the flight.

At 9:06 am the pilot contacted the Tauranga aircraft control tower and gave an estimated arrival time of 9:08 am, and requested permission to begin his descent.

On Wednesday 3 July 1963 at 8:21 am, ZK-AYZ Hastings left Whenuapai Airport, Auckland, on a flight to Tauranga. Conditions were stormy, with wind and low cloud. 22 passengers were supposed to be on the flight, but 3 passengers made last-minute changes to their plans and did not catch the flight. The flight was supposed to take only 48 minutes.

At 9:06 am the pilot contacted the Tauranga aircraft control tower and gave an estimated arrival time of 9:08 am, and requested permission to begin his descent. When the control tower tried to make contact at 9:14 am and again at 9:16 am, there was no reply from ZK-AYZ.