Four parachutists narrowly escape death after diving off plane shortly before it crashed in Masterton

Four parachutists were on board a plane that collided with another, killing both pilots. 

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Wairarapa Police Area Commander Scott Miller describes the mid-air two-plane crash in Masterton today. Source: 1 NEWS

The two pilots were killed in a mid-air plane crash between two light aircraft in Masterton today, police have confirmed.

Emergency services were called to the crash near Hughes Line, Masterton, about 11.15am, police said.

Four parachutists were on board one of the planes but had dived off it shortly before it crashed, police say.

The two planes collided as they were coming in to land at Hood Aerodrome. A helicopter, also preparing to land, avoided the impact.

Two pilots have been killed when their planes collided mid-air on approach to Hood Aerodrome near Masterton. Source: Supplied: Tom Beattie

The pilot of the other aircraft - a training plane - was the sole occupant.

A third aircraft, a helicopter in which the pilot was an eyewitness to the incident, was also lining up to land at the aerodrome but avoided the collision. 

Mr Miller described the impact as "very severe" and said both planes dropped immediately after impact.

The Civil Aviation Authority will arrive in Masterton tomorrow and will be the lead agency investigating the collision.

A specialist police search team are searching the area and will be keeping it secure overnight.

Correction; This story has been updated from an earlier version where it was incorrectly reported that six people died in the crash.