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Aviation Industry to ask Govt for TAIC law changes

Media Release
7 July 2006
Aviation Industry Association of NZ


Aviation Industry to ask Government for TAIC law changes


In the light of TAIC’s defence of its report on the Queenstown aircraft accident, the Aviation Industry Association will be writing to the Government to voice its concerns about TAIC investigations and the existing statutory framework in which they operate.

“We were very surprised at the response of TAIC’s Chief Commissioner. To claim that it is natural that a professional accident investigator should initially develop a mindset as to cause, is very troubling,” said Irene King, Chief Executive of AIA.

“We are astonished that the Chief Commissioner himself should take the view that because CAA declared a certain distance between departing aircraft was sufficient, TAIC should accept that as the first and last word.

“Surely it is a fundamental reason for TAIC’s existence to question and challenge every possible issue of relevance. It is as if having formed a theory as to cause, nothing should be permitted to intervene.”

Ms King said that “the cold light of external scrutiny” is missing from the TAIC process. AIA will be recommending to the Government that changes are made to the legislation to ensure that:

- any material being relied upon in the report of an accident investigation is made available to interested parties and can be subject to challenge before the investigation is completed

- at an appropriate stage in an investigation, interested parties have the opportunity to formally identify issues which are believed to be relevant to the enquiry and require investigation

- an open hearing is held to allow consideration of the draft final report by interested parties

- TAIC has power to second experts to its investigation teams

- Internal quality assurance processes are put in place at TAIC

“In this case, there are significant tracts of the report which were never put to the operator or subjected to challenge,” added Ms King.

AIA said it was too easy for TAIC investigators to simply dismiss the evidence of those involved if it did not align with their cause theory - as was the case with the evidence of the engineers in the Taumaranui helicopter crash.

In the Queenstown accident, TAIC’s investigation of what actually happened when the pilots of the preceding and the crashed aircraft cleaned their wings before take off was described as “superficial”.

“AIA understands that it was not until an early draft of the report was shown to the operator, that TAIC’s investigator stumbled over the fact that both pilots had actually cleaned their wings twice – once initially, and once after refuelling. This was surely a crucial area of evidence and should have been thoroughly investigated”, said Ms King.

“The evidence of ice formation is very mixed. There is no evidence as to how ‘hard’ ice could have formed and yet it is hard ice that is said to have been the cause.

“TAIC place great importance on tactile checks of the wing surface but the pilot was not asked about the feel of the wing surface when he opened the wing tank cap to refuel.

“If ice so hard as to resist two lots of brooming is the problem, how is a broad finger mark made in that ice?

“Why would an experienced pilot who clearly knew the dangers of ice contamination bother to clean the wing twice but do so in a way that visible ice and frost remained? What would be the point? Why would he place at risk his own life, let alone those of his passengers?

“Why didn’t TAIC report that brooming is the standard method for ice removal at Queenstown – one that has obviously been successful over many years.

“There seems to be a lack of forensic experience and open mindedness which is why we are saying that in addition to legislative changes, TAIC needs to overhaul their internal quality assurance processes.”

AIA have reaffirmed their wish to see the investigation re-opened.

“It is vital to our industry that the cause is established beyond doubt and that there is confidence in the findings. That is not the case at present.”

ENDS

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