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air crashes

Feb 22, 2017

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This 3 year old ABC TV graphic is the best done of the moment Pel-Air went down

The much delayed second final investigative report by the ATSB on the Pel-Air medi-vac  flight’s ditching near Norfolk Island in 2009 is now expected to land next month.

The air crash investigator has posted this note on its Pel-Air pages:

During the normal internal investigation review process, the investigation team identified the need to obtain additional information from some organisations in order to clarify various matters. In addition, significant time was allocated to refining analyses of flight recorder data and the aircraft’s fuel status during the accident flight. These activities have delayed the finalisation of the draft report.

It is now expected that the draft report will be provided to the Commission for their consideration and approval in March 2017.

The ATSB’s next update will advise when the draft is released to directly involved parties.

Thanks to reader Jaeger for picking this up.

police operation

Jan 26, 2017

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Hoch Air website today features a private hotline

CASA has given information to the Townsville Bulletin about the rogue bush pilot Josh Hoch which confirms its utter contempt for the safety of the flying public and its inability to effectively regulate air safety in Australia.

A Queensland police investigation has this week led to Hoch being charged on 342 counts concerning 14 alleged offences involving among other matters the claimed sabotaging of aircraft flown by rival general aviation or small regional operations out of Mt Isa airport.

Two of the aircraft Hoch allegedly tampered with by putting glass beads into their oil systems had crash landed without loss of life.

Three aircraft are alleged to have been interfered with, risking potential loss of life, on four separate occasions by Hoch in 2016 alone.

Hoch has also been reportedly charged over several alleged cases of insurance fraud involving aircraft.

However in the Townsville Bulletin story, a CASA spokesperson confirms that the safety regulator knew about claims about Hoch’s activities since 2013, and had worked closely with the police investigation since last October.

What happened in relation to Hoch’s activities between 2013, or possibly ever further back, and a very large police operation toward the end of last year, has yet to be laid out for public scrutiny.

But Plane Talking has a copy of a CASA document showing that Hoch and his company didn’t receive a charter approval and air operator certificate until December 8 last year, by which time the safety regulator on its own admission had participated in the police inquiries for two months.

If as this implies Hoch’s operations were unlicensed and unapproved by CASA for all or part of the time they were taking place up until December 8 last year the safety regulator is in obvious and quite possibly criminally negligent breaches of a number of acts.

How CASA could claim to have conducted a satisfactory audit of Hoch’s operations given the brief published by Queensland police and extensively reported in the Townsville Bulletin is a vitally important question.

CASA is on its record an organisation totally indifferent to the blood on its hands from recent blatant failures to carry out it duties. It doesn’t recognise its guilt or its incompetence, and it has made fools of the aviation ministers responsible for its activities for at least as far back as the Seaview disaster of 1994.

The safety regulator also knew of the lethal potential of the operation and principal operative of Transair long before it flew a small turboprop into a hillside when attempting to land at Lockhart River in 2005, killing all 15 people on board.

CASA failed to act on the unfavourable results of an audit of the operations of the Pel-Air fleet of Westwind corporate jets before one of them ditched in stormy seas off Norfolk Island in 2009. It subsequently attempted to suppress that audit with the co-operation of the ATSB, the accident investigator, but was found out by a highly critical all party Senate committee hearing into what remains an unfinished saga. The ATSB was forced to withdraw its first accident report into the Pel-Air crash, which was a shamefully inadequate investigation, and its new inquiry, which was supposed to report more than a year ago, is understood to have run into a number of ‘difficulties’.

The actions of CASA in relation to a pilot who may have been unlicensed for the purposes of his operations for a prolonged period of activity during which police allege he could have killed the occupants of planes which he had sabotaged require very close scrutiny by the Minister for Infrastructure, Darren Chester.

Not scrutiny passed off to his discredited civil servants who have apparently talked nonsense to him since he took up the portfolio last year.  Real scrutiny, by the Minister, of the performance of what many see as a rogue organisation that has a culture of tolerating known unsafe operations.

Will the Hoch scandal be a turning point in the restoration of effective air safety regulation in Australia, or is it just another ‘nothing-to-see-here-media-beatup’ along a pathway to future catastrophe?

air crashes

Oct 14, 2016

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The wreckage of the Pel-Air jet which the ATSB originally refused to recover
The wreckage of the Pel-Air jet which the ATSB originally refused to recover

The ATSB has updated the status of its re-opened inquiry into the Pel-Air ditching of an air ambulance flight near Norfolk Island almost seven years ago.

It says it is now “in a position to finalise a draft report which is expected to be released to directly involved parties by the end of the year.  Subject to comments made during the draft report review process, the final report should be released publicly in the first part of 2017.”

This whole sorry saga has become as much about the honesty and diligence of Australia’s air safety investigator, the ATSB, as well as its safety regulator CASA as it has about a plane crash.

In December 2014 the ATSB was directed to withdraw and re-open its original and much criticised report into the ditching following some very serious shortcomings that were identified by an independent peer review by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

It took a Senate inquiry to establish that the original ATSB inquiry ignored a suppressed internal CASA report that found the accident could have been avoided had the safety regulator done its job in relation to the oversight of Pel-Air’s operations of the small Westwind corporate jet that it used for medical flights.

The ditched Pel-Air flight involved a medical transfer from Apia to Melbourne which found itself unable to land in very poor weather conditions for its intended refueling stop at Norfolk Island with six people on board. The jet had insufficient fuel on board to to divert to an alternative airport. It was ditched in the sea adjacent to the island before its fuel would have run out and deprived the pilots of full control of the Westwind.

The evidence given by the then chief commissioner of the ATSB, Martin Dolan, to a Senate committee inquiring into its conduct of the original safety investigation was severely criticised in its report.

The Senate disclosures led to widespread concerns in the aviation industry that two government agencies, CASA and the ATSB had conspired to suppress evidence that the regulator had failed in its duty and that the accident report that was subsequently withdrawn had in effect framed the captain of the Pel-Air flight.

Irrespective of the fierce arguments that the original ATSB report gave rise to, there are few precedents for a national air safety regulator to be so totally discredited for its handling of an air crash inquiry as to have to withdraw its original report and do the job again, properly.

Even though the Pel-Air crash occurred in 2009, the failed regulatory reform process in CASA has not yet fully addressed and reformed the claimed inadequacy of the original rules that applied to oceanic medical flights on the night it crashed, leading to an against-all-odds search by a Norfolk Island fishing boat which rescued all six people who had been onboard the ditched jet.

The ATSB which had resolutely refused to recover the the Westwind’s flight recorder finally retrieved it and some other wreckage from the sea bed last year, after it was ordered to do a new investigation.

(The media was left in no doubt that the ATSB was directed to carry out the new inquiry, even though the current posting on its web site makes it sound like it acted on its own initiative.)

The surviving parties in this crash will now be given a period of time in which to review the draft report and have any comments or responses they may make taken into account before the final document is published publicly next year.

air safety

Jul 29, 2016

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A Jetstar A320 similar to the one involved in the Gold Coast incident
A Jetstar A320 similar to the one involved in the Gold Coast incident

Perspective

If Australia had an ATSB air crash investigator with the resources and courage to promptly deal with pressing incidents that exposed the public to severe dangers, our skies would be much safer.

The most recent example is reported in this Sydney Morning Herald account of an arriving Jetstar A320 and a departing AirAsia X A330 coming within 152 metres of each other close to the Gold Coast airport on July 21.

That specified lack of separation could not be independently confirmed earlier today, but the triggering of traffic collision avoidance system or TCAS  resolution advisory warnings in both airliners with a combined count of more than 520 seats near a high profile Australian airport demands more than an ATSB estimate of an inquiry report being issued by July 2017.

The quotes from a Jetstar spokesman in the media report make the official notification from the ATSB look like part of its apparent policy of downplaying all incidents that could have ended in major loss of life.

Does the ATSB really expect that public interest to be served by not identifying, very early, whether the airliners were directed to fly towards each other in such a dangerous manner, or whether instructions were not followed by one of the aircraft?  Or indeed, if some additional unexpected factor contributed to the situation? These questions could and should be answered in an interim or preliminary report no later than 30 days after the occurrence of such an incident.

Delays in reports, and downplaying of their importance, have become characteristic of the ATSB for at least nine years, after it failed to pursue a situation where a REX turboprop was flown almost all the way from Wagga Wagga to Sydney on a single engine, with passengers onboard.

The Pel-Air crash of 2009 led to the issuing of a totally discredited and subsequently withdrawn report into the ditching near Norfolk Island of a corporate jet performing a medical flight. Despite scathing Senate Committee findings into that scandal, which involved evidence of the covering up of failed regulatory oversight by CASA, and a damning independent review of the ATSB by its Canadian counterpart, and a direction by Government to conduct a fresh inquiry, Pel-Air is still a crash without a final investigative report.

The ATSB attitude to the directions of government is something like waiting for hell to freeze over.

More recently the ATSB issued a Correcting the Record attack on a Sydney Morning Herald account of the failure of Virgin Australia to keep track of the safe operations of one of its turbo-prop ATRs. (Scroll down on the above link to find the offending entry.)

While the Sydney Morning Herald seems happy to hang the author of a totally fair and accurate report out to dry,  the ATSB response is unacceptable, and avoids the core issue in the article by Aubrey Martin. Like numerous posts in Plane Talking before, Mr Martin points out that an Australian registered turbo-prop, with 68 passenger seats, was allowed to fly 13 sectors over five days following damage to its tail, before Virgin Australia discovered that it was so badly bent it had to be grounded at Albury.

It was nothing but luck that stopped Virgin Australia killing dozens of passengers through a failure to ensure the safe operational conditions of part of its fleet. This failure of oversight by the carrier would have been reason to suspend the regional turbo-prop arm of the airline by CASA, and shouts for a need for urgent attention by the ATSB.

No such action has been taken, adding to legitimate concerns that Australia has second world standards when it comes to the public administration of air safety.

Seen from outside, the ATSB is under resourced. It is also more than three years since the ATSB began inquiring into the circumstances which caused a Qantas and a Virgin Australia 737 to land in dense fog at Mildura with very little remaining fuel reserves when both had originally intended to complete flights to Adelaide.

That set of incidents raised significant questions about the regulations concerning the fueling of domestic flights in this country. Yet despite a detailed interim report, the ATSB has yet to deal with this critical underlying issue in the Mildura fog emergency that overtook flights by Australia’s major domestic carriers and put hundreds of lives in peril.

The ATSB is there to make flying safer in Australia, not to bury or avoid matters that may embarrass the airlines and their regulator and air traffic services provider.

air crashes

Feb 7, 2016

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air safety

Nov 25, 2015

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air crashes

Nov 12, 2015

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air crashes

Nov 9, 2015

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air crashes

May 15, 2015

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air safety

Apr 24, 2015

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air safety

Mar 23, 2015

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Had it been an Australian domestic flight none of dozens of survivors could claim PTSD
Had it been a domestic crash here none of dozens of survivors could have sued for PTSD

If there is a shred of human decency in our politicians, steps will be taken to reverse the exposure of domestic air travellers to the loss of  post traumatic compensation rights for injured persons that are a part of Australian law in relation to many other types of debilitating accidents. Continue reading “Pel-Air damages disclosure raises public policy failures”

air crashes

Mar 23, 2015

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Karen Casey's story tonight: A victim of cruel and dumb government policy

ABC TV’s Four Corners program tonight has a terrible shock for all domestic air travellers.

Australia has willingly signed away your rights for compensation for psychological trauma if you survive a plane crash, in order to harmonise our regulations with those of the rest of the world. Continue reading “Pel-Air shock, no trauma damages recourse for victims”

air safety

Feb 18, 2015

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Full fathom five, or more, the rear section of the ditched Pel-Air Westwind

Despite all the official cr*p spoken by the ATSB, CASA, and their discredited chief commissioner and former director of safety respectively, and the secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, and two successive ministers responsible for aviation, the Pel-Air flight recorder will be attempted to be recovered from the ditching location off Norfolk Island. Continue reading “Pel-Air flight recorder to be recovered, if possible”

air safety

Feb 17, 2015

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Minister Truss in action. Tell us more about the donations and Pel-Air?

Updated with partial response from Minister Truss. The Pel-Air accident scandal now threatens to undermine Australia’s nomination of the former chief of  CASA, John McCormick, as the next secretary general of ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Continue reading “Did Australia mislead ICAO over the Pel-Air crash?”

air safety

Feb 9, 2015

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justice

Feb 3, 2015

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air safety

Jan 22, 2015

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Warren Truss, who has some further explaining to do

Amazing and inexplicable coincidences have come to light involving party political donations from REX, the owner of Pel-Air, in 2012, after a fierce internal disagreement had broken out in that year in the ATSB over the conduct of its investigation of the ditching of a Pel-Air jet in 2009. Continue reading “Vague minister, generous airline, Pel-Air issues mount up”

air crashes

Jan 20, 2015

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