Pel-Air report documents released, extra hearings called
Documents released by the Senate inquiry into the Pel-Air crash report confirm that the pilot had no regulations or guidance for making decisions about diverting to other airstrips when the weather at Norfolk Island deteriorated en-route from Apia.
The inquiry, into Air Accident Investigations, has already heard admissions by the ATSB that it isn’t proud of its report, which failed to address critical safety issues both inside and outside the corporate jet which was performing an air ambulance charter for Careflight when it was ditched in the sea after it couldn’t make visual contact with the runway and was close to running out of fuel, on 18 November 2009.
The documents published on the inquiry web page, relate to allegations that the much delayed final report into the accident, published on 30 August, omitted relevant matters that rendered the air safety regulator, CASA, and the operator, Pel-Air, open to serious criticism for administrative failures and unsafe flying practices as revealed in a confidential and highly unfavorable CASA audit of Pel-Air, and then, through an abuse of process, framed the entire blame for the incident on the captain of the flight, Dominic James.
While the technical details concerning the crash, and the audited deficient state of the Pel-Air operation, and the suitability of its Westwind corporate jet to operate long oceanic flight stages, have been reported at length here and in some other forums, the general public interest in these matters is the competency, integrity and transparency of CASA, the air safety regulator, and the ATSB, the air safety investigator, which report to the same minister.
The committee, instigated by Senator Nick Xenophon, held a day of public and private hearings on 22 October and has now scheduled further public hearings on the 19th and 21st of November. It is provisionally expected to report its findings and recommendations by 29 November.
Commentary Most of the testimony heard by the committee to date has called for the withdrawal of the ATSB report because of factual errors, and its failure to conform to the international (ICAO) guidlines as to what constitutes an acceptable air safety investigation for a Level 1 state in terms of air safety.
As it stands it makes Australia’s air safety regulator and its air safety investigator appear compromised and vindictive, and leaves unanswered public policy issues about the inability or unwillingness of both bodies to tell the truth about air accidents or the diligence and competency of the air safety regulator to the public.