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Pilots’ Union claims are “wrong and hypocritical

Pilots’ Union claims are “wrong, cynical and hypocritical”

Taupo Airport Users Group (TAUG) totally rejects claims made by the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) that 80% of safety-related incidents at Taupo airport are not reported by pilots which suggests that ALPA does not genuinely care about incident reporting.

TAUG spokesperson, John Funnell said that aviation law defines the type of incident that must be reported and requires every pilot and operator to report such incidents. Additionally, many operators have as part of their internal company procedures, a requirement to report lesser incidents. Also, any person may report “aviation related concerns” (ARC) whether or not related to safety.

For the period January 2005 to May 2006, there were 68 incidents, accidents and ARCs reported in relation to Taupo. These vary from vehicles parked on the airport apron, to bird strikes, radio coverage issues and included a fatal accident in the Taupo area.

“Underreporting of the magnitude claimed by ALPA, would require a massive conspiracy between the 25 companies that operate at Taupo and the hundreds of individual pilots that fly into Taupo, which include many ALPA members.

“Each action of non reporting of any incident or accident meeting the mandatory criteria would be an illegal act and put at risk the operator or pilot’s certificate. On twin engined aircraft, it would require active collusion because each pilot carries the responsibility, not just the Captain.”

“Airlines run an open culture on incident reporting and encourage employees to raise issues in a non-blame environment. Our businesses would be under a huge risk if we didn’t take safety and incident reporting very seriously.

“However, for reporting to contribute to safety, there must be some integrity and honesty. ALPA has proved themselves totally cynical in this regard.

“On 3 May this year, an ALPA official reported, and claimed great concern about a supposed near miss between an airliner and a parachutist at Taupo. Such an event would be extremely serious had it happened. Not only was the claim false but as demonstrated in the attached letter to CAA and timeline, the ALPA official subsequently denied making it when asked to provide details.”

Affidavits regarding the ALPA conversations referred to in the timeline are currently being sworn.

“ALPA has also declined written requests for details of incidents that they claim to have knowledge of. That is nothing less than hypocritical.”

Mr Funnell said he is completely mystified by the motivations of ALPA to discredit Taupo airport users. He says there are very robust procedures at Taupo for reporting and investigating incidents coordinated by its dedicated and independent airport safety committee.

“The public can be reassured that safety at Taupo airport is the absolute priority of all operators, otherwise we would go out of business overnight”.

Letter to CAA from Taupo Airport Safety Committee dated 25 May 2006 with fictitious incident timeline attached.

Dear Captain Jones

I have been instructed by the Taupo Airport Safety Committee to forward to you the attached documents which comprise a timeline of events related to the matter that is referred to in CAA’s ARC # 06/1615, and copies of relevant documents which are referenced in the timeline.

As you will see, the Safety Committee was advised that an official from NZALPA had asserted that there had been a recent “very near miss” at Taupo aerodrome between a Beech 1900 aircraft and a descending parachutist.

The Committee made urgent and wide ranging efforts to establish the facts of the matter, including corresponding with the NZALPA official concerned.

After first undertaking to clarify and provide details, the NZALPA official subsequently denied having made this claim or having any knowledge of the said “incident”.

However, the Committee has been offered an affidavit from several people who say they were present at the time and heard the official make the alleged statement. The Committee has also received advice that the same NZALPA official made the same statement to another aviation operator.

All other lines of enquiry instituted by the Safety Committee have found no evidence of there having been such an incident. In the light of the subsequent statements of the instigator of the claim that there was no such incident, the Committee has concluded that there was no incident involving a near miss between a B1900 aircraft and a parachutist but accepts that the NZALPA official claimed that there was such an incident.

The Safety Committee is very concerned about this episode. In its view it is important that there is free and frank reporting of any type of incident or genuine safety related concern. However, no participant in New Zealand’s system of civil aviation, or any person representing a participant or participants should make false or reckless claims as to do so contaminates and undermines Just Culture and degrades the New Zealand system of aviation safety management. It has also wasted a great deal of time and incurred cost.

In drawing this matter to your attention, our Committee recommends that you do all in your power to discourage those concerned from any repetition of this irresponsibility.

Yours faithfully

Michael Grantham

Time line of alleged near miss at Taupo Aerodrome April

May 3 : John Funnell advises Safety Committee of alleged near miss:
Email from John Funnell (Annex No. 1) advising Committee that NZALPA Communications Officer advised Chief Flying Instructor Ardmore Flying School (“AFS”) of a near miss incident between a B1900 and a skydiver at Taupo Aerodrome sometime in the past few weeks.

May 3 : John Funnell initiates preliminary inquiries into alleged incident:
JF speaks with on-duty UNICOM operator (who reviews Unicom log), Eagle Airways Ltd Manager Flight Operations and Taupo Tandem Skydiving Safety Officer. These initial inquiries reveal no evidence or knowledge of any such an incident or alleged incident.

May 3 : Safety Committee approaches Taupo skydiving operators:
Great Lake Skydiving Centre Ltd and Skydive Taupo Ltd asked if they have any knowledge of alleged incident?

May 3 : Safety Committee writes to NZALPA:
Committee writes to NZALPA detailing advice received from Ardmore Flying School and asking for NZALPA assistance in investigating the alleged incident (Annex No. 2).

May 3 : Safety Committee Secretary advises all members of alleged incident:

May 4 : Safety Committee receives advice from two skydiving operators:
Skydive Taupo Ltd and Taupo Tandem Skydiving advise via email (Annex 3 and 4) that following consultation with staff they have no reports of loss of separation incidents.

May 4 : Safety Committee receives advice from NZALPA:
NZALPA advises that source of information is being established to ensure accuracy and to ensure details are filed with CAA per CAR Part 12 (Annex No.5).

May 4 : Eagle Airways Manager Flight Operations advises Committee:
Eagle Flight Operations Manager advises Committee that Eagle has embarked on internal investigation and has approached Vincent Aviation Ltd as Vincent also operates B1900’s into Taupo. Vincent Flight Operations Manager advises that Vincent has not operated B1900’s into Taupo since 20 March 2006 (Annex No. 6) but notes that same NZALPA officer visited him and made the same assertion of a near miss.

May 4 : Eagle Airways writes to NZALPA:
Eagle Airways advises NZALPA that Eagle is conducting an investigation into the alleged incident and must assume that since Vincent Aviation has not operated B1900s into Taupo since 20 March, the B1900 allegedly involved in incident must have been operated by Eagle. Eagle also advises it has not received an internal incident report of any such incident (Annex No. 7).

May 4 : Vincent Aviation Ltd confirms that NZALPA Communications Officer did advise of near miss incident.
Vincent Flight Operations Manager confirms he had telephone conversation with NZALPA Communications Officer on Tuesday 2nd May and that he was advised of a near miss incident had occurred at Taupo Aerodrome in the past couple of weeks (Annex No. 8).

May 8 : NZALPA writes to Safety Committee:
NZALPA advises Committee it is unaware of a specific incident involving a B1900 and a parachutist at Taupo Airport, and asserts that Mr Sattler (AFS Chief Flying Instructor) is mistaken in his contention that Craig Oliver (NZALPA) ever made such a statement. Same letter asserts there have been a number of other recent incidents at Taupo Airport which are of concern to NZALPA (Annex No. 9).

May 8 : Safety Committee writes to NZALPA seeking clarifications:
Safety Committee asks NZALPA for details of “other recent incidents” referred by NZALPA (Annex No. 10).

May 8 : NZALPA replies to Safety Committee inquiry:
NZALPA advises that it is advising all members to report incidents per CAR Pt 12 and that NZALPA is conducting a survey of pilots operating into Taupo and the survey has highlighted a number of safety concerns that NZALPA will make available to the Safety Committee (Annex No. 11).

May 8 : Safety Committee forwards NZALPA letter (Annex 9) to AFS Chief Pilot Instructor for his information.

May 8 : AFS responds to Safety Committee in reference to NZALPA letter
(Annex 9).
AFS Chief Pilot notes at least four people (AFS C.E.O and three instructors) heard NZALPA Communications Officer state to the effect there was a recent incident involving a B1900 and a parachutist at Taupo Aerodrome and expresses willingness to provide affidavits to this effect. AFS Chief Pilot also notes AFS is “sufficiently relaxed” about sending trainee pilots to Taupo Aerodrome (Annex No. 12).

May 9 : Safety Committee writes to NZALPA:
Committee requests that NZALPA and its membership provide NZAP incident reports to the Safety Committee in a timely manner and that NZALPA provide the Safety Committee a copy of the NZALPA Taupo Aerodrome survey (Annex No.13).

May 12 : Safety Committee meeting:
Alleged near miss raised at Safety Committee meeting. Safety Committee concluded that based on its investigations there was no evidence of any such incident. CAA Field Safety Officer Don Waters and CAA Flight Operations Inspector Robert Mills (both present at meeting) advise that the CAA has received an ARC regarding this alleged incident. Safety Committee undertook to provide its file on the alleged (but now denied) incident to the Director.

May 17 : Safety Committee Secretary spoke with CEO of Great Lake Skydiving Centre regarding response to earlier enquiry:
Great Lake CEO advises that Great Lake has consulted with its staff and there are no reports of any recent near miss incidents. Great Lake CEO advises will put this in writing ASAP.

May 18 : Safety Committee receives photocopies of Taupo UNICOM Service daily log:
UNICOM daily Log starting 15 April through 2 May 2006 inclusive contains no record of loss of separation incident between a B1900 and a parachutist.


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