Incident de Havilland DH.60M Moth ZK-ACH,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 348017
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Date:Friday 8 January 1937
Time:c. 16:00 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic DH60 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
de Havilland DH.60M Moth
Owner/operator:Western Federated Flying Club
Registration: ZK-ACH
MSN: 1563
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:Waipakihi River, Kaimanawa Range -   New Zealand
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Wanganui Airport (WG/NZWU)
Destination airport:Taihape, Rangitikei District, Manawatū-Whanganui
c/no. 1563 DH.60M Moth [Gipsy I #1244] to Dominion of New Zealand with C of A 2730 issued 10.9.30. Arrived in New Zealand 7.11.30 and registered ZK-ACH 12.30 [or 11.7.31] to Western Federated Flying Club, New Plymouth [Govt Loan aircraft]. Badly damaged in crash at Pihama, near Opunake 29.1.33; repaired and re-flown 22.6.34. (See separate entry)

Crashed in Kaimanawa Ranges near Turangi 8.1.37, en-route Wanganui to Taihape. Forced landing in rugged terrain due to magneto switch being accidentally knocked 'off'. Aircraft not badly damaged, but access was difficult. Most of aircraft salvaged on or after 21.1.37, by a team of horses and carts, but the rear fuselage was left on site. Records state this aircraft was en-route Wanganui to Taihape, but landing location is many kilometres north of destination. Possible that the crew on board had become lost, which would explain why they were not where they were thought to be. Hence, the search and rescue operations were hampered, as initial searches were in the wrong place. The aircraft went missing on January 8, but was not found until January 11, According to a contemporary local newspaper account (Hawke's Bay Tribune, 11 January 1937, Page 7 - see link #2):

Sighted in Kaimanawa Ranges
Ten Machines Engaged in Search To-day
(Telegraph - Press Association.)
Advice has been received at the Nelson aerodrome by telephone from Karioi that the missing Moth aeroplane from Wanganui has been located in the Kaimanawa ranges. It appeared to have made a forced landing, but was in an upright position. There was no sign of the occupants, who apparently had left the stranded machine and struck across country. Ten planes are continuing the search for them to-day, using Palmerston North and Karioi as bases.

Mr. W. Potaka, aged 25, pilot, with his cousin, Mr. Pine Potaka, as a passenger, set out at 2.40pm on Friday afternoon from Wanganui for Palmerston North with 19 gallons of petrol, sufficient for three hours. The plane did not arrive at Palmerston, but one answering the description was seen over Waiouru at 3.45pm on Friday. Mr Potaka had made previous cross-country flights in the Raetihi district, and as it was known he had relatives at Taihape it was thought he might have changed his mind and decided to pay them a visit.

Mr Potaka is an experienced airman with several hundred hours’ flying to his credit. He is a member of the Wanganui Aero Club. Planes searching yesterday made an intensive coverage of the area from the Main Trunk eastward to the Kaimanawas and over the southern slopes of Ruapehu. The area covered extended north over the Rangipo Desert as far as the southern shores of Lake Taupo. The three planes engaged on Saturday were unable to do much on account of bad weather, only one entering the area where the missing machine was thought to be.

Difficult Country to Find Way Out Of
(By Telegraph—Press Association.)
The missing machine was sighted during the early-morning reconnaissance by Major L. McGaffin, of the Manawatu Aero Club. It was sitting upright, apparently not badly damaged, in the bed of the Waipakihi river, about 15 miles east of the mouth of Ngaruahoe, at an altitude of 4000 feet. On receipt of this advice at the Karioi base, two machines set out to drop food beside the stranded plane, though there was still no sign of the two occupants. It was also arranged to send two machines to Tokaanu, as a ground party is being organised there. The other machines are remaining at Karioi in the meantime. Tho position of the stranded plane is five miles east of a prison camp. It is intended to fly members of the ground search party over the spot to enable them to view it before setting out across country. It is considered that the missing men might have grave difficulty in finding a way out unassisted. The search is expected to prove arduous, as the country is very rugged and heavily timbered.

Flight in Vicinity of Te Pohue
Two members of the Hawke’s Bay and East Coast Aero Club left Hastings this morning at 10 o ’clock to take part in the search for the missing flyers from Wanganui. The searching plane was piloted by Mr Stan White, and Mr W. Bateman acted as observer. They covered a 10-mile strip of the ranges in the vicinity of Te Pohue and further inland, but saw nothing of the missing plane. The weather was good for the search, but the conditions were bumpy, though visibility was good. Close on two hours were spent in cruising about the ranges before returning to Hastings shortly after mid-day. It was upon their return that the information was given them of the finding of the plane"

According to the caption of a contemporary local newspaper (which showed the result of the crash) (Wanganui Chronicle, 21 January 1937, Page 12 - see link #3)

The Moth ZK-ACH, the Western Federated Flying Club’s aeroplane which made a forced landing on January 8 on the banks of the Waipakihi River. Below, packhorses being used to bring out parts of the machine. From left. W. Potaka, pilot of the aeroplane when it crashed, Flying-Officer Jan Keith, pilot-instructor of the Western Federated Flying Club. K. Marlin, a New Plymouth pilot, and A. Salter, the Flying Club’s ground engineer."


1. AHSNZ, 1988, Journal, Vol 31 No 2, Vol 31 No 3.
2. Hawke's Bay Tribune, 11 January 1937, Page 7:
3. Photo of crash: Wanganui Chronicle, 21 January 1937, Page 12:

History of this aircraft

Other occurrences involving this aircraft
29 January 1933 ZK-ACH Western Federated Flying Club 1 Pihama, near Opunake, Taranaki sub


Revision history:

16-Nov-2023 16:22 Ron Averes Added
24-Nov-2023 17:34 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Total occupants, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative, Category]
03-Dec-2023 07:48 Ron Averes Updated [Location]

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