The Royal New Zealand Airforce and Warbirds Over Wanaka have been ordered to pay more than $616,000 to replace a vintage aeroplane damaged when it hit a cherry picker in a crash at the airshow.
The wing of Arthur Doveys Yak-3M hit one of two cherry pickers parked on a grass runway during a display at the 2018 Warbirds Over Wanaka show.
Dovey was unaware the cherry pickers had been moved onto the runway and the crash extensively damaged his plane, though he was unharmed.
The plane was uninsured and Dovey’s company, Dovey Aviation Consulting Ltd, went to the High Court seeking repair costs from the organisations and individuals he believed were negligent.
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hakea Air Force Base 42 Squadron Leader James Rankin breached his duty of care in the lead up to the crash.
Justice Jillian Mallon found that air force squadron leader James Patrick Rankin breached a duty of care to Dovey by directing the cherry pickers be moved without checking with flight display director Christopher Lee whether they would constitute a hazard.
Rankin did not alert pilots to the presence of the cherry pickers and relied on assumptions about where Dovey would land.
Lee, who was working for Warbirds Over Wanaka, did not check where the cherry pickers had been moved to, and the organisation substituted an F-16 opening display with a new opening display with insufficient time to carry out a proper risk assessment.
The organisation had earlier provided a briefing that the centre grass was available as a runway, Justice Mallons decision says.
Dovey with his crashed Yak-3 at Warbirds Over Wanaka in March 2018.
She found Dovey should have advised the display director that he would not be able to see the runway on landing.
Justice Mallon awarded Dovey Aviation Consulting Ltd $616,500 plus GST and interest against the air force and Warbirds Over Wanaka.
She did not apportion amounts and reserved leave for the parties to apply for that apportionment if necessary.
A New Zealand Defence spokesperson said the organisation was still considering the judgement and had no comment to make.
Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshows Ltd chairman John Gilks said the board had only received the 159-page decision on Wednesday and was not yet able to comment.
Dovey could not be reached for comment.
The biennial Warbirds Over Wanaka attracts about 55,000 people when it is held at Easter.
It is a major event for Central Otago, with an estimated economic impact in excess of $20 million every two years.
The 2020 show was cancelled due to Covid-19 and international borders closing.
On Thursday the organisation announced thatticket sales for the next airshow, in 2022, would go on sale on Monday.

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