The ATSB has contradicted its decision making in the case of the Pel-Air crash in 2009  near Norfolk Island in a final report just released into an incident involving a helicopter at Barrow Island, WA, in February this year.

The Barrow Island incident which can be studied here involved a night training flight in a Super Puma whose pilots were mislead by a weather forecast that was not amended when conditions deteriorated.

The Super Puma was left without sufficient fuel to land at an alternative location,  but was able to return safely to its base with less than legal fuel reserves remaining.

The notorious Pel-Air crash involved an air ambulance flight that flew past its point of no return to alternative runways between Apia and Norfolk Island when the weather deteriorated so badly that the captain ditched it in the sea in the dark, where all six people on board were eventually rescue by a fishing boat.

A Senate inquiry into the ATSB  handling of that crash investigation discovered that CASA had withheld from the investigator documents that showed the crash could have been avoided had it carried out its duties of oversight over Pel-Air.

The ATSB also totally discounted the relevance of  the weather information provided to the Pel-Air flight as it approached Norfolk Island to refuel, and refused to recover the data recorder from the wreckage, which is recoverable for the sea floor where it remains to this day.

Instead, the testimony given to the Senate committee into air accident investigations indicated that the ATSB and CASA conspired to frame the blame for the crash entirely on the pilot whose decision making and skills saved all on board, despite flying a jet that Pel-Air ought never have deployed on the mission it was undertaking, under inadequate CASA rules that persist to this day.

The point is, if two reports involve inaccurate weather information, why did the ATSB ascribe so much importance to it in the Super Puma report, but discount it in the Pel-Air crash?

Comment  This is another reminder to the Minister for Transport, Warren Truss, that the two aviation authorities for which he is now responsible did not carry out their duties according to law, or fairly, and have left in place a Pel-Air crash report that is an embarrassment to Australia and detracts from its reputation for air safety oversight and administration.

There is a compelling case, added to by the Super Puma report, for the Pel-Air report to be set aside and redone.  There is also a case, based on the testimony given to the Senate by the chief commissioner for the ATSB, Martin Dolan, and the Director of Air Safety for CASA, John McCormick, to be variously censured or terminated for what they admitted to in those proceedings.

The all party committee which wrote the Air Accident Investigations report included a detailed account of its reasons for not having confidence in the testimony given by Mr Dolan, something rare if not unprecedented in the history of Senate relations with the public service.

The issues are summarised in this report, which includes hyperlinks which will lead the curious back to additional material.

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