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Regarding the aircraft accident of 6th June 2003

Media Release

Air Adventures, Jan Williams and the Bannerman Family make the following statement regarding the aircraft accident, which occurred on 6 June 2003.

All grieve for the loss of life of Michael and the passengers in the accident. Sincere sympathy is extended to the families and friends of those who died.

The TAIC Report has been received.

Some of the findings of that Report are disputed.

Accident Investigators are only too ready to attribute blame for an accident on human error, however, accident causation factors are much more complex. In this accident, questions still remain and assumptions made by the investigators contested.

In this accident, crucial navigation receivers could not be tested to ascertain if they were working correctly – assumptions were made they were functioning correctly. These assumptions are not accepted.

Further assumptions have been made regarding the interference from a cell phone. It appears inadvertent or accidental activation of the cell phone and its effect on aircraft navigation and glide slope electronic equipment has not been considered to any great degree.

Indications of malfunctioning instruments have not been adequately investigated. The aircraft was consistently below the glide path, which strongly suggests the pilot was receiving incorrect information. The question as to why Air Traffic Control did not query this has not been answered.

Insufficient weight has been given to the possibility of the pilot being presented with a faulty glide slope indication. The Report states the Horizontal Situation Indicator pointer, which display information from the glide slope receiver was indicating full down, and the Secondary ILS G/S pointer 1 dot down. These instruments were found in these positions during the investigation and would indicate to the pilot that the aircraft was above the glide slope during the Instrument landing approach and the aircraft needed to be lower in order to arrive safely at the airport.

It is our firm belief Michael was misled by malfunctioning instruments as to his altitude, hence his continued descent.

TAIC discounted the possibility of the effect of wake turbulence. This is not accepted. The aircraft could have been in the wake turbulence generated vorticies of the preceding heavy aircraft. Air Traffic Control had asked Michael to slow up on the approach. It is assumed they were concerned he was getting to close to the preceding aircraft.

The aircraft may well have encountered heavy sink and a rate of roll that was not high but nevertheless did not permit full control. The aircraft was banked to the left at point of impact. This is a strong indication of the effects of vortices generated by wake turbulence from a preceding aircraft.

Michael was a cautious, conscientious pilot not given to the taking of risks or shortcuts. He would not knowingly expose others or himself to a potential risky situation.

The precise cause of this tragedy, as is the case of many aviation accidents, is inconclusive – the simple or easy reason of “pilot error” leaves many answered questions. Questions that may never be answered. Labeling the accident this way does not seek out the root causes and this is the crucial task of accident investigation.

Accident Causation theorists maintain human error is attributed as one of many list of causes used by the media and investigators – but human error is a consequence not a cause. In this case, malfunctioning instruments may well have caused the pilot to operate the aircraft under a misapprehension as to his altitude.

The Company, Jan Williams and the Bannerman Family wish to express their gratitude and appreciation to the efforts and assistance of the Airport Rescue Service, NZ Police, NZ Fire Service, Order of St John Ambulance, Airways Corporation and members of the public in locating the aircraft in extremely difficult conditions.


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